Senator Schumer calls for big stick of “Title II” as net neutrality debate heats up

New York Senator Chuck Schumer has upped the stakes in the debate over how the FCC should regulate broadband internet providers, by calling on Friday for them to be reclassified as so-called “common carriers.”

In a Facebook post, Schumer invoked “Title II,” which has been a third rail in discussions on telecom policy, because it would require companies like Comcast(s cmcsa) to behave more like public utilities. His post reads in part:

“Like a highway, the internet must remain free and open for all; not determined by the highest bidders … Title II reclassification is the best way to for us to preserve the internet as an unfettered tool for communication and the sharing of ideas.”

In response to the post, prominent figures from the tech world, including Reddit’s Alexis Ohanain and lawyer Marvin Ammori, left comments hailing Schumer’s plan as an important step for startups. (This being the internet, the post was also greeted by a faction of trolls and loudmouths). Here’s a screenshot:

Schumer FB screenshot

Schumer’s post comes as the FCC closes its first round of comments next week on a policy that raised the idea of letting companies pay for “fast lanes” that would let them deliver their content ahead of other sites.

The current rules on what internet providers can and can’t do are in disarray after an appeals court struck down the FCC’s previous “net neutrality” policies, but left the door open for the FCC to impose the Title II classification. FCC chair Tom Wheeler has said he will consider invoking the Title II rules, a position the internet companies vehemently oppose.