Franken pushing FCC to keep internet protections

U.S. Sen. Al Franken is pressuring federal regulators under the Trump administration to keep current protection in place for a free and open internet. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken says the implementation of new internet access rules would pose “an enormous threat” to freedom of speech and democracy.

Franken made his latest pitch for net neutrality protections Friday during a news conference at the Hennepin County Library in downtown Minneapolis. He was joined by a blogger, a business owner and a librarian who share his concerns.

Franken, a Democrat, fears that the Federal Communications Commission under President Trump could soon scrap a 2015 Obama administration order that prevents internet service providers from playing favorites and creating so-called fast lanes for websites willing to pay. Franken said the FCC needs to do the right thing.

“We have to keep the pressure on them to pay attention to the American people, the American people, who overwhelmingly want us to maintain net neutrality, who overwhelmingly want us to keep an open internet,” Franken said.

Franken said the FCC was flooded with messages supporting net neutrality during a recent public comment period.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has described the 2015 order as a “heavy handed” approach to “hypothetical harms.” He prefers returning to a “light touch” regulatory framework.

Megan Kocher, science librarian at the University of Minnesota and chair of the Minnesota Library Association’s intellectual freedom committee, opposes the changes Pai is pushing. Kocher said that internet access must remain equal.

“There are no deep pockets in public libraries to pay for fast lanes to information,” Kocher said.

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