Sen. Al Franken criticized as "misguided" a plan being considered by the FCC's head to let companies pay for preferential access to ISPs, warning that it would "destroy" the concept of an open Internet.
In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday, Franken said that the idea would constitute "an affront to Net neutrality and have no place in an online marketplace that values competition and openness."
A federal appeals court decision in January essentially assigned the Federal Communications Commission to write new Open Internet rules. Wheeler has since drafted rules that would let Internet service providers charge companies varying rates for faster connection speeds.
Franken blasted that idea, predicting that it would create a "fast lane" that would shut out small businesses and jack up consumer costs.
"Your proposal would grant Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet, which violates core Net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past. Although you claim that this proposal is not a "turnaround," it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission's Open Internet Order."
Net neutrality is a concept that embraces the idea that Internet content providers should not face discrimination when providing their services to consumers. It also supports giving users equal access to view legal content of their choice.
Franken argued in his letter that "pay-to-play arrangements are inherently discriminatory and anticompetitive, and therefore should be prohibited as a matter of public policy."
The FCC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wheeler has rejected criticism that his proposal would gut the Open Internet rule. In a recent blog post titled "Setting the Record Straight on the FCC's Open Internet Rules," he complained that his proposal has encountered "a great deal of misinformation."
Wheeler will have an opportunity to explain his position in more detail on May 20, when he's scheduled to testify before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications.