FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's protestations that he is not gutting the Open Internet rules but instead finding a legally sustainable way to restore them per a court's blueprint has not made much impression on some critics.
Civil disobedience Web site popularresistance.org was calling for picketers to meet at the FCC Wednesday from noon to 5 p.m. to protest what they said was Wheeler's effort to end net neutrality, with a rally at 5 p.m.
In addition, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) lent his support to an effort by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and NoSlowLane.com to get Wheeler to back off his draft proposal for new net rules, scheduled for a May 15 vote.
Appearing in a YouTube video posted Wednesday morning, Franken said that net neutrality is "under threat as it never has been" because he says Wheeler's new rule proposal would "permit a fast lane for content providers who are willing and able to pay for it."
He said that would mean big corporations would be even more dominant over mom and pop stores and that "big media companies will be able to get their version of the news to consumers faster."
"This is the free speech issue of our time," he said, arguing that the Wheeler proposal would impose a "pay for play system" that "silences our voices and amplifies that of big corporate interests."
He said it was time to rise up and save net neutrality so that it would not be taken away.
Wheeler has been stumping for his rule change, most recently at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention in Los Angeles last week. He signaled that the FCC would not simply be automatically blessing paid priority, but that it would be taking a case-by-case approach to whether that was commercially reasonable discrimination, and suggested it would be a tough sell.
"We will not allow some companies to force Internet users into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service," he told the cable operators.
The old network neutrality rules did not disallow discrimination either, but banned unreasonable discrimination. The court said that flat out ban sounded too much like common carrier regs being applied to a service that was not defined as a common carrier, so the FCC had to either define it as such or regulate discrimination without banning it. The new rules in essence turn a qualified prohibition into a qualified permission.
"Let me be clear. If someone acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have nots,' we will use every power at our disposal to stop it," Wheeler told NCTA.