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View Diary: FCC moves forward with rule gutting net neutrality (176 comments)

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  •  Here's a copy of a letter (2+ / 0-)

    that I received from Sen. Pat Leahy in response to one of the many petitions I signed about this matter.

    Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to accept public comment on various proposals to reinstate net neutrality rules.  I appreciate that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is soliciting input on a range of approaches, including whether or not to reclassify broadband providers as so-called "common carriers," but I wanted to share my concern over certain aspects of what was voted on today.

    The most troubling aspect of Chairman Wheeler's proposal is the possibility that new rules will allow broadband providers to charge websites or applications tolls for access to end-users.  Paid arrangements between providers and websites do not reflect open Internet principles and I will not endorse any effort by the FCC to support those kinds of agreements.  The very essence of net neutrality is that a better idea or service should be allowed to succeed on its merits and not have to pay tolls to reach potential customers.  Open Internet values have allowed the Internet to grow into the ultimate marketplace for ideas and they must be protected.  

    It is unacceptable to enact rules that simply pay lip service to the phrase net neutrality but actually undermine those principles.  While I take Chairman Wheeler at his word that he would vigorously enforce the rules adopted by the FCC and carefully scrutinize any paid agreement between a broadband provider and a website, future leadership at the FCC may not share his views.  Pursuing weak rules now with the promise of strong enforcement later is of little comfort when we do not know what will happen beyond Chairman Wheeler's tenure at the FCC.  Moreover, case-by-case enforcement that prohibits certain agreements but allows others will create uncertainty in the market.  

    Pay-to-play arrangements will undoubtedly harm innovation and entrepreneurship online, but they will also harm consumers.  Imagine paying for the highest speed tier available – which can cost upwards of $100 per month in some areas – but still being unable to stream high definition video from your favorite streaming service because they choose not to pay your provider a toll that will enable the necessary speeds.  Under that possible future, consumers will never know if what they are paying providers for is enough to access the content they want.  In some cases, no matter what they pay, it may never be.

    Thankfully, Chairman Wheeler is asking for input on other approaches as well, and is explicitly asking whether pay-to-play deals should be banned.  This is a welcome development, but the debate on how we craft new net neutrality rules is just beginning with today's vote.  I have heard from hundreds of Vermonters who have expressed concerns about weak net neutrality rules.  I share those concerns and I want to hear more from you, which is why I announced yesterday that I will be holding a Judiciary Committee field hearing in Vermont the first week in July to more closely examine the various proposals at hand.

    You can be sure that I will continue to be a voice in Congress for strong net neutrality rules that promote an open Internet and protect consumers.

    Sincerely,

    PATRICK LEAHY
    United States Senator

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