THIS spring the Federal Communications Commission proposed Internet rules that would allow broadband access providers to let companies pay for faster delivery of their content.

The first phase of public comment recently ended with the greatest response in FCC history. Millions of Americans made it abundantly clear they want a free and open Internet. No toll booths, no road blocks, no lucrative discrimination.

A second commenting period is open until Sept. 10. Expect another deluge of protests.

Washington’s U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell support an open Internet, that in Murray’s words “does not pick winners and losers at the expense of innovators and consumers.” Cantwell has noted “this misguided proposal could mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”

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Thirteen senators urged the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers — same as broadly regulated telecommunications. Though Murray and Cantwell did not sign, their statements put them in the most vocal camp of proponents for a free and open Internet.

Their vigilance is essential, along with the attention paid by millions of Americans. Net neutrality is understood and valued. The FCC is headed in the wrong direction.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).