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FCC facing revolt over net neutrality: Tech titans and others call for open Internet

Net neutrality's last stand? Over 150 tech companies signed a letter to FCC chairman in opposition to new rules


Sarah Gray
May 8, 2014 5:15PM (UTC)

The FCC is facing some strong opposition to new rules proposed in late April. The proposal would allow Internet service providers, both cable and mobile, to individually negotiate with Internet companies (Google and the like) and charge extra to provide their content to users. The rule abandons the idea of net neutrality -- a free and open Internet -- and puts more power in the hands of companies like Comcast and Verizon. The rule is scheduled for a vote on May 15.

On Wednesday, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix, Tumblr and over 100 others signed a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and the commissioners, calling the rule a "grave threat to the Internet." They worry that these rules will allow discrimination against specific companies, and users of different ISPs.

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"The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination," the letter stated. "An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users."

These Internet companies are not alone in their opposition to this threat to net neutrality. Sen. Elizabeth Warren also spoke out against giving in to corporate interests, on her Facebook page last week:

"We don’t know who is going to have the next big idea in this country, but we’re pretty sure they’re going to need to get online to do it. Reports that the FCC may gut net neutrality are disturbing, and would be just one more way the playing field is tilted for the rich and powerful who have already made it. Our regulators already have all the tools they need to protect a free and open Internet—where a handful of companies cannot block or filter or charge access fees for what we do online. They should stand up and use them."

Several FCC commissioners also voiced skepticism for the proposed rule. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn wrote a blog post reaffirming her commitment to a free and open Internet. She wrote:

"Over 100,000 Americans have spoken.

And during the past few weeks, tens of thousands of consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, healthcare providers and others have reached out to ask me to keep the Internet free and open."

In a speech to the American Library Association, commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel not only stressed the importance of technology (including high-speed Internet) and our libraries but she also called for an open Internet, and asked that the vote be pushed back a month.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the FCC, Neil Grace, said that the vote will take place as scheduled. "Chairman Wheeler fully supports a robust public debate on how best to protect the Open Internet, which is why he intends to put forward his proposals for public comment next week," Grace said in a statement. "Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online."

Consumers can voice thoughts on the proposed rule here. The full letter written to the FCC, and list of signees can be found below:

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"Dear Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Rosenworcel, Pai, and O’Reilly:

We write to express our support for a free and open internet. Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users.

The Commission’s long-standing commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open Internet are a central reason why the Internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth.

According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.

Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.

Such rules are essential for the future of the Internet. This Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.

Sincerely,

Amazon
Cogent
Dropbox
Ebay
Etsy
Facebook
Foursquare
Google
Kickstarter
Level 3
LinkedIn
Lyft
Microsoft
Netflix
Reddit
Tumblr
Twitter
Vonage Holdings Corp.
Yahoo! Inc.
Zynga

2600hz, Inc.
2redbeans
4chan
8×8, Inc.
Addy
AdviserDeck
Agile Learning Labs
Airdroids
AirHelp
AnalyticsMD
Appar
Apportable
AppRebates
Apptology
Assembly Made, Inc.
Authentise
Automattic/WordPress.com
BadgerMapping
Bitnami
BitTorrent
Blu Zone C
Beyond
Chirply
Clef
CloudFare
Codecademy
CodeCombat
CodeHS
CodeScience
Colourful Rebel
Contextly
Coursera
CrowdTilt
Cube, Co
dasData
Digg
Distinc.tt
DuckDuckGo
Duolingo
DynaOptics
Embedly
Fandor
Floor64
Flowroute
Flurry
Fonebook
Funeral Innovations
Gandi
Gawker
General Assembly
Github
Grid
Handy Networks
Haystack.tv
Heavybit Industries
HelloSign
HeyZap
iFixit
iLost
Imgur
Instapaper
inXile Entertainment
Kaltura
LawGives
Leaflad
LendUp
Linearair
Linknovate
littleBits
Lucipher.net
MDDHosting LLC
Medium
Meetup
Meteor Development Group
Minds + Machines
Misk
MixRank
MobileWorks
Motionry
MozartMedical
Mozilla
NOTCOT Inc
O’Reilly Media
OfficeNinjas
Open Materials
Open Spectrum
OpenDNS
Opera Software ASA
PayTango
Pocket/ReaditLater
Poll Everywhere, Inc
Printrbot
Publitas.com
Rallyware
Recrout
Redbubble
Rewheel/Digital Fuel Monitor Reylabs
Rogue Labs
Shapeways
Sidecar
Sift Science
Simpolaris
SketchDeck
Skytree
SlidePay, Inc
Socialscope
Solidoodle
SpiderOak
SpoonRocket
Spotfront
StackExchange
StartX Stanford
Statwing
Tastemaker
The Next Web
Triggit
Tsumobi
Tucows
Twilio
UberConference
UltiMachine
Ustream
Vidmaker
Volary Foundation
Voys Telecom
Waxy
Worldly
Xola Yanomo"


Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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