Since his election in the nail-bitingly close campaign against former Republican Senator Norm Coleman, former Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken has emerged as one of the strongest voices in favor of so-called "Net Neutrality" policies being considered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Franken has called "Net Neutrality" the most pressing free speech issue in modern day America, and supports policies which would require Internet service providers to treat all legal traffic equally.
Speaking Thursday evening before an FCC public hearing on "Net Neutrality," Franken insisted that the U.S. government cannot allow companies to write the rules by which they'll later be forced to play.
"We don't just have a constitution problem here, we have a First Amendment problem, okay?" he said.
Search giant Google and telecom titan Verizon have both issued a series of "compromise" policy suggestions that would allow companies to create multi-tiered services over wireless networks offering specialty, premium service packages in what critics have called a plan to "cable-ize the Internet."
Critics of Google and Verizon's proposals were especially concerned that such services might become a non-public parallel wireless Internet where data could get special handling.
The proposal could simply be ignored by the FCC.
Advocacy group "Save the Internet," which promotes "Net Neutrality" policies, adds: "Our warnings are no longer speculation. Google, Verizon, ATT and Comcast are about to turn the Internet into cable TV --- where their favored websites and content will move fast, and everyone else will be left without a voice. These companies will kill the Web as an engine for free speech and equal opportunity. It is time for us all to stand up or get rolled."
Save the Internet is operating an online petition that asks Americans to send their thoughts on the issue of "Net Neutrality" to the FCC. Similarly, Sen. Franken also has an online petition advocating "Net Neutrality."
"What you're gonna have [if Net Neutrality does not become policy] is a handful of companies that own all the programming and provide all the Internet services," Franken said. "A handful of companies will have their hands on all of the information that all of us get, and that is very, very dangerous. All of these companies will have interests that are absolutely aligned, and this is very dangerous."
President Obama has said he is "committed" to ensuring "Net Neutrality" policies are implemented.
Franken's remarks were carried in a live video cross-posted to RAW STORY, courtesy of The Uptake. Video of his speech follows.