Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants true net neutrality -- and he's calling on federal regulators to take a big step to get there.
Schumer called on the Federal Communications Commission on Friday to reclassify Internet broadband providers as public utilities, which would prevent them from charging websites such as Netflix for a "fast lane" to ordinary subscribers.
“The internet in the 21st Century is as important to our future as highways were in the 20th Century," Schumer said in a statement. "Like a highway, the internet must remain free and open for all; not determined by the highest bidders."
Schumer said "reclassification is the best way to for us to preserve the internet as an unfettered tool for communication and the sharing of ideas."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, broadband companies such as Comcast and Verizon are fighting tooth and nail to keep the FCC from treating them like utility companies. They want to keep open the option to charge high-bandwidth websites for quick access to users.
Behind the scenes, the broadband companies have been rounding up congressional support in their push to prevent reclassification. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a plan in May that could allow for paid prioritization online. Other liberal stalwarts, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have criticized that plan.
House Republicans are near-united in their opposition to reclassification. If Wheeler wants to switch course in favor of that step, he will need cover from Senate Democrats such as Schumer.