Thousands Use Sanders Senate Website to Protest FCC Plan on Net-Neutrality

WASHINGTON, May 14 – As part of a torrent of criticism pouring into the Federal Communications Commission, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) yesterday delivered to the FCC nearly 19,000 comments from consumers demanding a free and open Internet.

In advance of a Thursday meeting of the FCC, Sanders had invited visitors to use a form on his Senate website to weigh in what the senator called a “terribly misguided” proposal.

Comments like these poured in. “Net Neutrality is vital for a free and open Internet and the economic advantages that it has brought our nation and the world,” Anthony Drake of Moreno Valley, California, told the FCC. Roy Gibson of Stamford, Vermont, told the FCC that Internet providers “should be treated like utilities.” Reg Jones of Bennington, Vermont, wrote that “net neutrality should be mandated as President Obama promised. Any attempt to allow differential speeds and access to the Internet should be squashed.” And William LaFrana of Versailles, Kentucky said, “The Internet was developed with taxpayer funding and should not be held hostage to corporate piracy.”

Sanders said the comments were critical of the FCC attempt to undermine the principles of net neutrality and let companies like Comcast and Verizon divide the Internet into fast and slow lanes. Such pay-to-play arrangements for faster access would give major corporations a significant advantage over small Internet startups and grassroots political organizations. “The Internet is an incredibly important and democratic tool,” said Sanders. “Whether you run a huge website or a small blog, you should have equal access to Internet users without paying a ransom to providers like Comcast.”

In addition to protests from consumers, major tech firms – including Google, Microsoft and Amazon – said the proposal “represents a grave threat to the Internet.” So many Americans have called the FCC that an automated message now asks them to email “open Internet” comments to a new inbox instead. Consumers also may still use Sanders’ Senate website to send the FCC a message.

The flood of criticism reportedly has prompted Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to retool his proposal before a preliminary vote Thursday on whether to propose any rules changes for further public input.