Al Franken: Proposed FCC Rules Are 'Opposite of Net Neutrality'

Sunday, 11 May 2014 10:24 PM

By Greg Richter

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Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says new rules being proposed by the Federal Communications Commission will stifle innovation on the Internet.

The new rules would create a "fast lane" and a "slow lane" on the Internet, allowing companies with deep pockets to buy faster speeds from Internet providers. Smaller companies and startups would be at a disadvantage, making the new rules "the opposite of Net neutrality," Franken told Time.

The rules would even allow broadband providers to block certain content, including that of its competitors. Such moves would hurt consumers in areas where they have only one choice of broadband providers, which is about 30 percent of the country, Franken said.

Franken told Time that most of his colleagues in Washington don't even understand what Net neutrality is.

"We literally have members of Congress — I’ve heard members of the House—say, 'We've had all this innovation on the Internet without Net neutrality. Why do we need it now?'" he said. "I want to say, 'Come on, just try to understand the idea. Or at least just don’t give a speech if you don’t know what you’re saying. Please — it hurts my head."

The Minnesota Democrat has been a champion of Net neutrality since he joined the Senate in 2009. Without such rules, the next YouTube or Twitter might be prevented from ever coming to existence, he said.

Franken has a background in television, having spent more than 30 years as a writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live." He said he wants to ensure Net neutrality to ensure people can continue to receive the entertainment they want.

Online services such as Netflix now find audiences for popular programs including "House of Cards" that people can watch on their computers or tablets rather than on traditional TV. The proposed FCC rules would make it possible for Netflix to purchase "fast lane" access that would help it beat competitors.

But it also could drive up the price for consumers as Netflix passed its costs on to viewers.

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