Updated at 9:32 a.m. to reflect the FCC’s vote and to include statements from lawmakers.
Today is the day.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is scheduled to propose rule changes that could end the open Internet as we know it and create a fast lane for Internet service providers willing to pay a premium. (Read The Seattle Times’ May 11 and May 13 editorials. Share your thoughts on the Opinion Northwest blog.)
The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (7:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time). View streaming video on the FCC’s website.
Visit savetheinternet.com for more information, graphics, videos and resources to share with your communities.
Here in Washington, a rally associated with the watchdog group Free Press is scheduled for Thursday at noon. Here are the details, via MoveOn.org:
Seattle FCC Office, 11410 NE 122nd Way (Map)
Kirkland, WA 98034
Thursday, May 15
Rally scheduled from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Elected officials unite in opposition to net neutrality (This section will be updated as lawmakers’ responses are received.)
On May 9, 10 U.S. senators (not including Washington’s Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) sent a letter to Wheeler, strongly urging the FCC to pursue a rule-making process that ensures the Internet remains “open to all, and making sure that Internet access is free from the threat of blocking, discrimination, and pay-to-play schemes.” To U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell‘s credit, she offered the following statement in a April 24 press release:
“I am very concerned about press reports today that the FCC is considering allowing high-profit Internet providers to pay, with revenues from their subscribers, for faster service… This misguided proposal could mean the end of the Internet as we know it. The Internet is a bedrock component of the 21st Century innovation economy and we must continue to fight hard for a level playing field. We cannot allow the Internet to be segregated between Lexus lanes for the affluent and dirt roads for those with less money.”
A number of Senate Republicans also oppose Wheeler’s position, according to a news report from The Hill.
In advance of the FCC’s Thursday meeting, 36 House Democrats sent their own letter to the commission requesting that its members “reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers to restore Net Neutrality.” U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, was the only member of Washington’s Democratic delegation to add his signature. (An email has been sent out to other representatives to inquire about their stance on preserving net neutrality.)
On Thursday afternoon, Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene‘s spokesman, Viet Shelton, said over the phone that the congresswoman supports strong open Internet rules, but she did not sign the letter because the FCC’s actual rule change had not been publicly released. “Does she have concerns? Yes. But, it’s hard to really come down and land [on a position] until the proposal is presented in a full and clear way,” he said. (Here’s a link to a Feb. 19 press release in which DelBene states her support for restoring the FCC’s old Open Internet rules.)
House leaders on the Republican side, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, forwarded yet another letter to the FCC stating the following:
“We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy’s most vibrant sectors. At a time when technology businesses need certainty to innovate, this is not the time for the FCC to engage in a counterproductive effort to even further regulate the Internet.”
Updated at 9:20 a.m. on May 15, 2014:
The Washington Post reports that the FCC voted Thursday to advance the proposed rules by a 3-2 vote.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray issued a statement via email on Wednesday evening:
“I support a free and open Internet, and any proposal adopted by the FCC must not fall short of this standard. The bedrock today for innovation, economic opportunity, the free flow of knowledge and ideas, and robust consumer choice is an Internet that does not pick winners and losers at the expense of innovators and consumers,” said Senator Murray. “I encourage Chairman Wheeler and his fellow FCC commissioners to adopt a Net Neutrality proposal truly worthy of the Internet’s role in American innovation. Key to this is a proposal that prevents discrimination, improves transparency and provides market certainty—for consumers and the next generation of American innovators. Nothing less is acceptable.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also weighed in Wednesday by releasing a letter he wrote to the FCC, asking the panel to delay Thursday’s vote.