There aren’t many situations where you can imagine Google, Facebook and Twitter uniting for a common cause. But they are just four of over 100 technology companies who have submitted a joint letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States over its proposed new rules regarding net neutrality. Other signatories include Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Dropbox, Foursquare, Tumblr, Yahoo, Netflix and Reddit.
“Instead of permitting individualised bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritisation, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent,” write the organisations. The letter can be read in full here.
The letter is addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who plans to introduce new rules which will potentially enable internet companies to negotiate “priority bandwidth” with internet service providers. “Net neutrality advocates argue that Internet start-ups might not be able to afford pay for such special treatment, potentially stifling innovation on the Internet,” says Sam Gustin at TIME.
And it isn’t just the Goliaths of the tech industry who are concerned about the precedent that Wheeler’s proposal sets. Protesters have set up camp outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, in what The Guardian’s Dominic Rushe calls an “Occupy-style” demonstration: “More than a million people have now signed petitions to the FCC calling for them to enshrine net neutrality rules and prevent a tiered system.”
Wheeler himself maintains that net neutrality will remain as high a priority as ever. In a blog post last month, he stated: “I am a strong believer in the importance of an Open Internet… The focus of this proposal is on maintaining a broadly available, fast and robust Internet as a platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment. Our goal is rules that will encourage broadband providers to continually upgrade service to all.”
You might want to try explaining that to the people picketing your offices, Tom.