Net neutrality remains essential

Daily Editorial Board

After Republicans inserted a provision into next year’s budget that would seriously undermine most existing net neutrality rules, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced that he would fight against the change. 
 
Most people receive their Internet service from one of a handful of providers. Under the current net neutrality laws, these providers cannot favor websites that pay more money or that promote a certain type of message — rather, they must deliver all content equally. 
 
This February, the Federal Communications Commission voted formally to uphold net neutrality. The new Republican provision, however, would prevent the FCC from enforcing its rules until it settles the legal challenges put forth by Internet service providers.
 
The issue has become political. While running for re-election last November, Franken made net neutrality a crucial issue of his campaign. On one occasion, he said that net neutrality preserves the democratic nature of the Internet and prevents large corporations from infringing on individual innovators and startup companies. 
 
In contrast, Republican politicians have stood sharply opposed to net neutrality. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called it “Obamacare for the Internet” last November. 
 
We commend Franken for his fight to uphold net neutrality, which is not a new regulatory policy but rather the longstanding rule of the Internet. The web is perhaps the last remaining space where all people can truly speak as equals, regardless of their racial, sexual or economic statuses — to lose its democratic character would be a grave blow to everyone except wealthy Internet service providers.