Internet pioneers, leaders call for cancellation of FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rules

Internet pioneers and leaders have joined the growing chorus calling on lawmakers to urge the FCC to cancel this Thursday’s vote to repeal net neutrality rules.

Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and others write in an open letter Monday to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, plus the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, that the Federal Communications Commission chairman’s plan to roll back the rules is “rushed” and technically incorrect.

“The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet,” the letter states.

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Rules meant to protect net neutrality, the principle that all online traffic should be treated equally, are likely to be killed this week by the FCC vote. The rules, established in 2015 after years of legal wrangling, prohibit the establishment of fast and slow internet lanes and favoring certain online content over others.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the position this year by President Trump, has claimed the rules hinder broadband investment and innovation, something opponents dispute. His plan is likely to pass because the five-member FCC is majority Republican and averse to regulation.

Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, joked about the issue last week during the annual FCC chairman’s dinner in Washington, as protesters rallied outside the dinner, and at Verizon stores throughout the nation.

Among other things, Pai poked fun at the record 22 million-plus comments submitted to the FCC about net neutrality, even as lawmakers and New York’s attorney general are questioning whether some of the comments are fake. He also showed a video in which he laughs off being called a Verizon puppet, and took shots at his fellow commissioners, Democrats Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, a leaked video of his talk shows.

Meanwhile, internet experts, pioneers and users are worried about ISPs losing oversight and possibly feeling emboldened to throttle, block, censor content and services and more.

Last week, more than a couple of dozen Democratic senators called for a delay of the FCC vote. Tech companies, from startups to tech giants, advocate for net neutrality. Advocates are already bracing for legal action.

The FCC chair’s office has not responded to our request for comment Monday.

Other internet pioneers and experts who signed on to Monday’s letter, which was addressed to Sens. Roger Wicker and Brian Schatz, and Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Michael Doyle, include Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, Internet Archives’ Brewster Kahle and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

“Breaking with established practice, the FCC has not held a single open public meeting to hear from citizens and experts about the proposed Order,” the letter also states.

Starting Tuesday, net neutrality advocates are planning to “break the internet” as they auto-tweet about the issue every 10 minutes or change their relationship or job statuses to “married” to net neutrality or defender of net neutrality.


Photo: Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance, speaks during a rally to save net neutrality outside the Verizon store on Market Street in San Francisco on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. Verizon stores across the country were sites for coordinated protests one week before the FCC votes to roll back net neutrality rules. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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