Twitter, Reddit and a couple hundred companies urge FCC to rethink killing net neutrality

More than 200 companies including Twitter, Reddit, Square and Airbnb are urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to reconsider his plan to kill net neutrality.

In a letter made public on Cyber Monday, companies big and small presented the famous online shopping day as an example of why net neutrality — the equal treatment of all online traffic — is important.

The companies cited numbers that show how big e-commerce has become, with Americans spending billions of dollars online on Cyber Monday alone.

“Because of the open internet, a web developer can launch a business out of their own apartment, an aspiring fashion designer in Wyoming can sell clothes in Los Angeles, or a caterer can find new customers in their town,” the letter states. “Disastrously, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week released a draft order that would end this open commerce by repealing the current net neutrality rules and eliminating the protections that keep the internet free and open for America’s businesses and consumers.”

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The FCC is scheduled to vote Dec. 14 on Pai’s plan, which would roll back net neutrality regulations established under the Obama administration. The rules prohibit internet access providers from prioritizing certain content over others, and from establishing fast and slow lanes.

Pai — a Republican appointed chairman by President Trump — and other opponents of the current rules say they harm broadband investment and tech innovation, which proponents strongly deny.

For example, Santa Rosa-based ISP Sonic was one of the signatories of Monday’s letter. Its CEO recently responded to a question from SiliconBeat about Pai’s statements that net neutrality rules, which classify broadband providers as telecom companies under Title II of the Communications Act,  keep smaller internet service providers from expanding or innovating.

“Sonic has continued to expand our fiber optic network and doesn’t see Title II classification as a barrier,” Dane Jasper said in an emailed statement last week. “However, it is true that a number of small ISPs have feared Title II because they’d have to stop throttling video and instead upgrade their networks to comply. That said, we still firmly believe that consumers should get the speed they pay for, no matter the source or type of content.”

The Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission is widely expected to approve Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality. His plan, unveiled last week, is opposed by the two Democrats on the five-member FCC.

“The move could affect everything online, including the connections we make and the communities we create,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times before Thanksgiving. “In the time before the agency votes, anyone who agrees should do something old-fashioned: Make a ruckus.”

Scheduled instances of making a ruckus include Dec. 7 protests at Verizon stores across the nation and a planned protest at FCC offices in Washington on Dec. 13, a day before the vote.

Rosenworcel has also called for public hearings ahead of the vote. No such hearings are scheduled.

The other Democratic commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, released a fact sheet on the same day Pai released his plan. Among the things she says about Pai’s plan: “increases uncertainty for consumers, ensuring that broadband providers could block or throttle at a whim,” and “threatens innovation at the edge, by allowing broadband providers to charge tolls to access their customers.”

Broadband and wireless providers are applauding Pai’s move.

“The FCC’s proposal to regulate broadband as an information service – changing the Internet back to how it was treated for most of the past two decades – does not end an open Internet,” Dave Watson, president and CEO of Comcast Cable, said last week in a statement. “It does not change Comcast’s customer protections. In fact, the FCC proposes to require us to continue to keep customers clearly informed on our net neutrality practices.”


Photo: Protesters hold a rally to support net neutrality on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, D.C. Another rally is planned at the FCC’s offices on Dec. 13, 2017, one day before the FCC is scheduled to vote to repeal net neutrality rules passed in 2015. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)


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