Democrats slam Google-Verizon neutrality deal, ask FCC to act

AT&T and Verizon's net neutrality deal became a political issue on Monday as four House Democrats voiced their opposition to the plan with the Federal Communications Commission. In a letter to the regulatory agency, the lawmakers said the proposal 'reinforces the need for resolution' to the debate.

"Formal FCC action is needed," they wrote. "The public interest is served by a free and open Internet than continues to be an indispensable platform for innovation, investment, entrepreneurship, and free speech." The four lawmakers calling for the changes were Reps. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Anna Eschoo of California, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania.

Markey and Eschoo were behind a net neutrality bill called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which has never made it out of committee.

The consensus among the four seems to be that the FCC should reclassify broadband Internet as a regulated service so that net neutrality polices can be enforced by the agency. Inslee said in a statement that the idea of net neutrality was not to impose new rules, but rather ensuring an open Internet where all traffic is treated equally.

Google and Verizon had in a roundabout way agreed to do so, but with a few key caveats. Wireless traffic was not included, and ISPs would be allowed to throttle traffic that it finds 'unlawful.' It also gave the ISPs free reign to prioritize traffic for unspecified future services.

Members of the Tea Party movement have already interjected their own opinions into the debate, opposing any new regulations. At least 35 groups have joined conservative groups in the anti-net neutrality movement, The Hill's Hillicon Valley blog reported on Friday.

"I think the clearest thing is it's an affront to free speech and free markets," Virginia Tea Party chairman Jamie Radtke said. Her statements also seemed to indicate that more groups in the movement plan to make the idea of reclassification a political issue ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.

Not everyone agrees with that line of thinking, however. Media reform interest group Free Press applauded the lawmaker's move, calling it 'a courageous stand for the American public' in attempting to prevent the industry from writing its own rules.

"The industry titans are trying to convince policymakers in Washington to look the other way while carving up the Internet among a few big companies," Free Press political advisor Joel Kelsey said in a statement. "Their policy proposal would leave consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs unprotected."

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