Tech Giants Demand FCC Respect Net Neutrality

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Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others demand the US regulator withdraw plans for a two tier Internet

Big names in the tech industry have lent their support to an open letter demanding that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) end its controversial net neutrality plans.

The letter, addressed to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, has been signed by more than 100 companies including the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo.

Two Tier Internet

Their concerns centre revolve around proposals made by the  FCC which could allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge certain companies higher fees for the amount of Internet traffic they consume as part of new proposed ‘Net Neutrality’ rules.

The new rules state that ISPs will be able to charge major content providers for treating their traffic as a priority, resulting in higher connection speeds for some customers. However, this would only be done on “commercially reasonable” terms. The tech companies fear that this could led to the creation of a two-tier Internet, with major corporations enjoying much faster speeds than smaller competitiors.

internet net neutrality (C) Peshkova - Shutterstock“We write to express our support for a free and open internet,” reads the open letter. “According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.

“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.

“The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low. Such rules are essential for the future of the Internet. This Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce…”

Net Neutrality

The letter comes amid a backdrop of deepening concern at the US plans. Indeed, it is reported that protesters on Wednesday set up camp outside the Washington headquarters of the FCC to protest the plans.

In 2011, the FCC passed Net Neutrality rules designed to keep the Internet free and prevent service providers from blocking each others’ business, but in January this year, a lawsuit by Verizon brought a ruling that the US telecoms regulator could not force ISPs to treat all traffic equally – a decision widely criticised by freedom of speech campaigners at the time. The FCC said then it would propose a new set of rules rather than try and appeal the decision.

That decision could have possible implications in the UK and further aboard. Last month, the EU parliament approved plans to enshrine Net Neutrality in European law, but they have to be adopted by individual member states.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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