Udall, Heinrich Call on FCC Chairman Pai to Abandon ‘Reckless’ Plan to End Net Neutrality

39 senators tell FCC not to repeal net neutrality rules that protect the free and open internet

WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that they have joined a group of 39 Democratic senators in urging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to abandon his plan to repeal the agency’s net neutrality rules in favor of giving internet providers the ability to freely block or slow down consumers’ access to the internet. The senators’ letter comes ahead of a Thursday vote by the FCC to dismantle net neutrality protections.

“Your plan gives a broadband provider the ability to significantly alter their subscribers’ internet experience,” the lawmakers wrote. “Once adopted, this proposal will permit that provider to freely block, slow down or manipulate a consumer’s access to the internet as long as it discloses those practices – no matter how anti-consumer – somewhere within mounds of legalese in a new 'net neutrality’ policy. …It is a stunning regulatory overreach.”

"The future of the internet hangs in the balance,” the lawmakers continued. "The FCC’s responsibilities over the nation’s communications networks remain, and are more crucial than ever, as the internet has become fundamental to every aspect of our society.  On behalf of our constituents – and future generations of Americans – we urge you to abandon this radical and reckless plan to turn the FCC’s back on consumers and the future of the free and open internet.”

Repealing net neutrality rules will affect New Mexicans in many ways – from small business owners who rely on the internet to compete with bigger companies, to students who need to access internet content for school, to the growing number of consumers who stream television shows and movies instead of paying higher costs for cable.

The letter was led by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and in addition to Udall and Heinrich, it was signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.), Al Franken  (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.),Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Cory A. Booker  (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

The full letter can be found below and here

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write to urge you to abandon your reckless plan to radically alter the free and open internet as we know it.  Your proposed action will amount to the largest abdication of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) statutory responsibilities in history.

At its inception, Congress delegated to the FCC the primary responsibility to protect consumers and the public interest with respect to the nation’s communications networks.  With your current proposal, you have now decided to throw overboard those long-standing responsibilities – and consumers with them.  In short, you are walking away from your statutory duties and effectively eliminating FCC oversight over high-speed internet access.

Your plan gives a broadband provider the ability to significantly alter their subscribers’ internet experience.  Once adopted, this proposal will permit that provider to freely block, slow down or manipulate a consumer’s access to the internet as long as it discloses those practices – no matter how anti-consumer – somewhere within mounds of legalese in a new “net neutrality” policy.

Your proposal also makes sure that no other state or local government can fill this gaping consumer protection void by preempting them from adopting their own open internet consumer protections.  It is not enough for the FCC to turn its back on consumers.  You willfully plan to tie the states’ hands to prevent them from protecting their own residents.  It is a stunning regulatory overreach.

Underlying your plan is the false notion that your action will return the internet to the supposed halcyon days of “light touch” regulation in the past.  This notion – that the way the agency approached internet access in the 1990s and early 2000s is the perfect approach today – ignores the very different role that the internet plays in 2017.  Over the past 20 years, internet communications have become widely adopted and relied on by American homes and businesses.  Yet, your plan ignores the central and critical role that access to a free and open internet plays in Americans’ lives and the role that the nation’s expert communications agency should play with respect to the networks underlying that access.  Moreover, your assertion that your plan returns internet access to the way it was before is not correct.  Even under the Bush-era FCC, the agency adopted open internet principles and held out the threat of regulatory action to combat harmful activity.  Your plan eradicates even that backstop and leaves Americans without a regulatory safety net.

The future of the internet hangs in the balance.  The FCC’s responsibilities over the nation’s communications networks remain, and are more crucial than ever, as the internet has become fundamental to every aspect of our society.  On behalf of our constituents – and future generations of Americans – we urge you to abandon this radical and reckless plan to turn the FCC’s back on consumers and the future of the free and open internet.

Sincerely,