Senate Leader Reid Pledges to Support Open-Internet Rules

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a letter he would support “any Open Internet rules” passed by U.S. regulators, language welcomed by supporters of strict rules opposed by telephone and cable companies.

The pledge gives the Federal Communications Commission political cover to regulate Web services like a utility, rather than relying on less robust rules that allow for so-called fast lanes on the Internet, said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, a Takoma Park, Maryland-based policy group that received the letter dated yesterday.

Reid’s support is “a reason for the FCC to move ahead with the strongest rule possible,” Segal said in an interview. Other groups that are urging the FCC to approve rules requiring Internet service providers to treat Web content equally also received the letter from Reid, Segal said.

The FCC has received more than 1.1 million comments since Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed rules that would allow companies such as Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to charge more for fast passage over their lines.

Such arrangements threaten ideals of an Internet freely and equally accessible to all, commonly known as net neutrality, people have told the FCC in comments.

Some congressional Democrats as well as Web startups and advocacy groups have backed the idea of the FCC asserting authority to regulate Web services like a utility. Internet service carriers and allies including Republican lawmakers have said such a move would deter investment.

‘Lead Fight’

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, was responding to a letter last month from Demand Progress and other groups including MoveOn.

“Let me assure you that I will lead the fight to protect any Open Internet rules promulgated by the FCC against the inevitable Republican attack against such rules,” Reid wrote. He said he would work to “ensure that priority arrangements that harm consumers are prohibited.”

The FCC is taking comments on Wheeler’s proposal, which would replace rules voided by a court earlier this year in a ruling that said the agency failed to claim the proper authority.

Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to comment on Reid’s letter. A Reid aide didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

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