Franken takes victory lap on net neutrality

WASHINGTON – Sen. Al Franken is taking a moment to celebrate following the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to regulate broadband Internet service like a public utility, a cause he has championed for several years.

“Last spring, I could not have predicted that we would be celebrating this victory today,” Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. “The best principles of our democracy have won out.

At issue was whether broadband Internet providers such as Comcast could charge website operators premiums for access to “fast lanes” that would provide speedier access to content.

The debate over “net neutrality” has been underway for years and as recently as 2014, it appeared that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was preparing to accept an industry-backed proposal for Internet “fast lanes.” Following an unprecedented campaign by online activists against that proposal, Wheeler embraced tougher oversight of broadband carriers.

The net neutrality fight is also connected to another one of Franken’s pet issues: blocking the merger of Comcast and Time Warner, a move that would create an enormous broadband provider that also controls a slew of TV and cable networks.