Sen. Al Franken brought his mantra of Net neutrality to Austin, Tex., Monday in a speech at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and tech festival.

Franken urged the friendly audience of musicians and digital entrepreneurs to join him protecting the Internet from what he warned would be a corporate takeover if Net neutrality rules were erased.

“We need to engage more voices in the debate — people who would be hurt if Net neutrality became a thing of the past,” Franken said. “Most of them just don’t know that the Internet they rely on could cease to exist as they know it.”

Franken, who also spoke at SXSW in his pre-Senate days, told the festival-goers, "It's time for us to use the Internet to save the Internet.”

Net neutrality, the concept that Internet providers treat all traffic equally, has long been a rallying cry for Franken. But the Minnesota Democrat has taken up the cause with new urgency once again after House Republicans voted last month to reverse the FCC’s Net neutrality rules passed in 2010.

Franken, who has his own problems with the FCC’s regulations, accused conservatives of hijacking the Internet debate. “They’ll tell you that putting rules in place to preserve Net neutrality as it exists today amounts to a government takeover of the Internet, a talking point deserves a place alongside death panels and Obama’s a Muslim,” Franken said.

Net neutrality opponents argue there’s already an open Internet, and Net neutrality rules are unneeded government regulation.

Check out the Star Tribune’s complete coverage of South by Southwest, where at least 36 Minnesota bands will be playing.

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