Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has come out strongly against a plan to loosen regulations on internet service providers.

Sen. Claire McCaskill – D

Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, is the chief proponent of scrapping the Net Neutrality policy his agency currently enforces.

McCaskill thinks the change would eliminate important consumer safeguards that protect a free and open internet.  She says thousands of Missourians have contacted her office in the past two weeks who favor retaining Net Neutrality.

McCaskill also contends those sentiments were echoed by a large majority of the more than 443,000 Missourians who submitted public comments to the FCC on the issue earlier this year.

Net Neutrality is a concept adopted under the Obama administration in which Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data they transmit equally.  They’re not currently allowed to discriminate or charge different fees for access to high speed delivery.

FCC Chairman Pai, an appointee of President Trump, has vowed to move forward with a scheduled vote by the agency next Thursday on whether to keep or discard the regulation.

Pai’s announcement was in response to a letter from the Internet Association, whose members include Amazon, Netflix and Uber, asking the commission either delay its vote, or vote down any changes.

Without Net Neutrality, ISP’s would be able to charge content providers such as Netflix to deliver data to customers through an “internet fast lane”.  McCaskill thinks the FCC could be overstepping its bounds with a vote.

“I have long said that Congress should settle the issue of net neutrality once and for all with legislation to provide certainty for consumers and providers alike,” said McCaskill.  “Until Congress can reach such an agreement, I urge you to abandon efforts to entirely eliminate net neutrality rules.”

In a letter to Chairman Pai dated yesterday, McCaskill says his Restoring the Internet Freedom Order, the document the commission will vote on, is flawed in it’s assumption that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can adequately oversee ISP’s.

“With 35 percent more employees and a budget nearly 50 percent larger that the FTC’s, the Federal Communications Commission – which Congress has specifically empowered to regulate interstate and international communications – is the appropriate agency to oversee and enforce net neutrality,” McCaskill said.

Missouri’s Republican Senator Roy Blunt favors doing away with Net Neutrality.  He contends that allowing ISP’s to charge for high speed delivery would provide them with a new revenue stream.  He thinks the companies would use the new income to invest in broadband infrastructure in rural areas that are otherwise not profitable.

“The more you open up the economic potential for the service that somebody is putting in, the more likely they are going to put the service in” Blunt said last summer at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia.

ISP’s such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast contend that allowing them to profit through a tiered delivery of content will enable them to invest in infrastructure build out.

One of the biggest backers of Net Neutrality in Congress will soon be falling silent.  Democratic Senator Al Franken announced Thursday was would resign his seat in the upcoming weeks over numerous accusations of sexual misconduct.  Franken has called Net Neutrality the “free speech issue of our time”.