With the days dwindling down to the FCC's May 18 planned vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to roll back Title II classification of ISPs, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined a dozen other Democrats in a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai telling him not to "gut" net neutrality protections.
Markey has been a leader in the pushback on modifying/unwinding the FCC's Open Internet order, vowing to fight the effort on all fronts.
In the letter, they take issue with both rolling back Title II and the suggestion—which sources said was raised in meetings between Pai and ISPs—that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce voluntary openness pledges along the lines of the Open Internet order rules against blocking and throttling and anticompetitive paid prioritization.
They said since a court had upheld the FCC's reclassification, the issue was settled and should remain so. As to voluntary guidelines, they said those do not provide the certainty that innovators and "anyone else" can get access to viewers and customers and leaves ISPs as the gatekeepers.
The Democrats are unlikely to gain any traction given that Pai and fellow Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly are both strongly opposed to Title II, though the May 18 vote could be held up if Democrat Mignon Clyburn does not show up to vote, which would deny the quorum needed to launch the rulemaking.
Pai has said the NPRM is only the beginning of a process and has also said he would welcome Congress' input to clarify the FCC's internet regulatory authority. Republicans in control of Congress want to clarify that ISPs are not Title II common carriers, subject to access and, potentially, rate regs.