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Obama, Franken pushing back against net neutrality repeal

As Senate Republicans attempt a procedural move to undo rules put in place by the Federal Elections Commission (FCC) last year, Sen. Al Franken and President Obama are pushing back.

Last December, the FCC implemented rules that limited the establishment a “fast-lane” by internet service provides available to those with the highest bid. Under the rules laid out in December by the FCC, telecommunications companies cannot discriminate in what internet content they allow their customers to access. Net neutrality advocates have said that without a framework, large businesses could pay large telecommunications companies to direct internet traffic to their businesses without the consumer knowing that other websites had been skipped over, a practice known as paid prioritization.

That rule takes effect on Nov. 20, but House and Senate Republicans have pushed to have that rule withdrawn through legislative means. The House already passed the bill, and Senate Republicans are pushing a similar one as the deadline approaches. They are using a procedural gimmick in the Senate to force a floor vote without the option of a filibuster.

Republicans have put the issue into a resolution that simply reads that the FCC rule “shall have no force or effect.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Franken penned an column explaining what he feels will be the result if Senate Republicans are successful.

“While millions of Americans have become familiar with the concept of net neutrality, it’s important that we’re all on the same page,” Franken wrote. “Net neutrality isn’t a government takeover of the Internet, as many of my Republican colleagues have alleged. It isn’t even a change from what we have now. Net neutrality has been in place since the very beginning of the Internet.”

He added, “But many Republicans want to change that so that the large corporations they represent can increase their profit margins at the expense of small businesses and consumers.”

Franken has been a champion of net neutrality since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

But he also felt the net neutrality rules created by the FCC weren’t strong enough.

“The rule also contains almost no protections for mobile broadband service, remaining silent on the blocking of content, applications and devices,” Franken said in December. “Wireless technology is the future of the Internet, and for many rural Minnesotans, it’s often the only choice for broadband.”

The Obama administration pushed back on Tuesday as well, indicating to Senate Republicans that a veto any bill that weakened net neutrality would be likely.

“The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of S.J. Res. 6, which would undermine a fundamental part of the Nation’s Open Internet and innovation strategy—an enforceable, effective but flexible policy for keeping the Internet free and open. Today more than ever, the open Internet is essential to job creation, economic growth, and global competitiveness,” the White House said on Tuesday. “If the President is presented with S.J. Res. 6, which would not safeguard the free and open Internet, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution.”

Paradoxically, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the author of the rules repeal, says her bill would encourage an open and free internet.

“The Internet and technology have produced more jobs in this country than just about any other sector. It has been the cradle of innovation, it does not have a problem, and it does not need fixing,” Hutchison said in a statement on Tuesday. “More regulation of the Internet is going to stop the investments, it’s going to stop the creativity — and put our businesses and our providers at a competitive disadvantage with Europeans and others that have kept their Internet free of over-regulation.”

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