Leading Internet Figures Demand Cancellation Of ‘Net Neutrality’ Vote


Vint Cerf, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Wozniak are amongst those calling for this week’s vote to be called off amidst a ‘lack of transparency’

Twenty-one figures who contributed to the early internet have asked the US Senate to block a planned vote this week by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would repeal “network neutrality” regulations.

The signatories of the open letter, who include Vint Cerf, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Wozniak, said the FCC’s planned vote on Thursday would remove long-standing oversight over internet access providers “without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation”.

The FCC’s low-regulation approach is “based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of internet technology”, the letter states.

The signatories argued the consultation ahead of the proposed changes suffered from a lack of transparency, with millions of comments from the public seemingly ignored and the FCC’s comment system disrupted by botnets and an unexplained outage.Fibre, network, broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012

Lack of transparency

“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 states.

“The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create,” the letter concludes. “It should be stopped.”

It was sent to the Senate’s commerce subcommittee on communications, technology, innovation and the internet.

The neutrality regulations are designed to prevent carriers from charging users extra to access certain services or favouring other services by exempting them from data caps. Proponents of the rules say such changes would make it more difficult for smaller companies to compete online.

But the Republican-controlled FCC argues broadband providers should face minimal regulation in order to promote competition.

Free market

The FCC has said it believes the free market will ensure fairness, in spite of the fact that in many parts of the US users have access to only one provider.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said in future they would rely on broadband providers to make clear statements available to the public “concerning an ISP’s practices with respect to blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and congestion management”.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the regulators said they would focus on reviewing consumers’ complaints and ensuring providers made accurate disclosures and adhered to them.

“Instead of saddling the internet with heavy-handed regulations, we will work together to take targeted action against bad actors,” the FCC said.

Chris Lewis of Public Knowledge, a pro-net neutrality group, said the statement amounted to handing over regulation of the broadband industry to the providers themselves.

“This gives free rein to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you of it,” he stated.

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