Ahead of a planned online protest tomorrow, we look at some prominent voices weighing in on net neutrality.
As the FCC considers rules that are supposed to ensure the equal treatment of all online traffic, one focus of the heated discussions is on reclassifying broadband so it can be regulated like telephone companies. The agency’s previous efforts on Open Internet rules have failed in part because it is seen as having no authority to regulate broadband.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yesterday wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to act on reclassification. But Cisco, Intel, IBM and others also wrote a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, and they oppose reclassification:
Proposals to reclassify broadband Internet access as a “Title II” service – today reserved largely for landline telephone service – threaten to remove incentives to invest in broadband growth and improvement. Because Title II allows for so little flexibility and innovation, it would undercut substantially the broadband providers’ incentives to make the investments necessary to fund network deployments and upgrades. Indeed, the Federal Communications Commission’s determination to leave Internet access services largely unregulated incentivized both investment and innovation and the Internet’s potential as a mechanism for economic growth was realized.
Companies such as Netflix — one of the most vocal supporters of net neutrality — have called for reclassification. As we’ve written, Netflix has waged a war of words against the broadband companies it is reluctantly paying in order to ensure the quality of its video streams.
Netflix also has signed on to the planned protest Wednesday. The Los Gatos company will join Mozilla, Reddit, Etsy and others in what’s being called the Internet Slowdown. Participating websites’ homepages will show the ever-popular “loading” symbol to signify slow Internet lanes, although the sites themselves won’t actually slow down. People also can change their social-media avatars to the “spinning wheel of death.” (As it stands now, the proposed Open Internet plan would make it officially OK to create fast and slow lanes on the Internet.)
Says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian:
The FCC has proposed a legally unequal web — one where those who provide us internet access would be gatekeepers, not gateways. It’s an internet where we’d all need to buy a permission slip (that most of us can’t afford) from Comcast or Time Warner Cable to compete, innovate, and organize equally.
The protest calls on Internet users to continue to make their voices heard by contacting the FCC, Congress and the Obama administration. The FCC, which has already fielded more than 1 million comments, is taking comments until Sept. 15.
Photo from Battle for the Net website