Several liberal lawmakers want to apply utility-style regulations to Internet service providers.
Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, collected signatures for a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet like the telephone system.
Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Al Franken of Minnesota, as well as independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have signed on, aides confirmed. The lawmakers have planned a Tuesday morning press conference with Internet advocacy groups.
In the letter, the senators argue that stronger authority is necessary to enact net-neutrality rules that prevent broadband providers such as Comcast from manipulating traffic to favor giant corporations.
"Broadband is a more advanced technology than phone service, but in the 21st century, it performs the same essential function," the senators write in a draft of the letter.
"Consumers and businesses cannot live without this vital connection to each other and to the world around them. Accordingly, it would be appropriate for the FCC to reclassify broadband to reflect the vital role the Internet plays in carrying our most important information and our greatest ideas."
Because of a decision during the Bush administration, the FCC currently regulates broadband Internet as an "information service" under Title I of the Communications Act. Reclassifying broadband as a "telecommunications service" under Title II of the law would immediately give the agency sweeping new powers.
The FCC enacted net-neutrality rules in 2010 under the weaker legal authority, but a federal court struck them down earlier this year. The FCC is trying to rework the rules in a way that can survive future court challenges, but the proposal from Chairman Tom Wheeler has prompted a massive public backlash because it would allow Internet providers to charge websites for special "fast lanes" as long as the agreements are "commercially reasonable."
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Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc