More than 100 of the most influential technology companies operating in the U.S. have written a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission slamming a proposal for new rules that will effectively end ‘net neutrality.’
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Yahoo, and Level 3 are just a few of the internet giants to sign the letter.
While their letter does not explicitly recommend any specific course of action, it strongly supports the concept of the open internet and suggests that the FCC is bound to protect that concept.
“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 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 fact that this is the first time so many influential technology firms have come together to express a unified stance on a single issues only highlights its importance. It’s clear they’re staunchly against any action (or inaction, as the case may be) that jeopardizes the free and open internet.
The letter was prompted by an FCC document that leaked in April, suggesting that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will propose a new rules which will allow ISPs to charge content providers like Netflix and Google to ensure a speedy service – Something many commentators have called an ‘Internet Fast Lane.’ Wheeler has since confirmed the documents are legitimate, and the new rules are scheduled for public comment on May 15.
With additional internal reviews of the proposal expected, along with a call to suspend the proposal by FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and two republican members of the FCC’s advisory panel coming out against the measure, it seems Wheeler will face an uphill battle to push his proposal through. Though, many believe the fact that such a proposal was even made by the FCC is indicative of a larger issues surrounding money in politics and the role of lobbyists.
As the data transferred across networks continues to increase, the lack of clear rules about net neutrality is becoming increasingly evident.
ISPs claim that additional charges for large content providers like Netflix and Google is sensible when they occupy large percentages of total web traffic. However, the worry is that if the major players can pay for a faster service, it could put start-ups competing against them at a significant disadvantage.
Some ISPs have already requested (and started receiving) fees directly from content providers to ensure the quality of their service which, as Level 3 has confirmed, was intentionally degraded by the ISPs to increase their bargaining power with content providers like Netflix in such negotiations.
Engine Advocacy, an organization that believes an open internet is key to technological innovation in the U.S., helped to organize the effort and gather support and signatures for the letter.