Internet giants slam FCC’s plan for internet ‘fast lanes’ as the end of net neutrality
Dated May 7, 2014, the letter addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the recent proposal – which would reportedly allow internet service providers to transmit data to websites at faster speeds if they pay extra – “a grave threat to the internet.”
The letter was signed by scores of technology companies, including giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Netflix, and Yahoo.
“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 impose new tolls on them,” the letter reads. “If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.
“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent.”
Although the FCC is scheduled to vote on the controversial plan on May 15, the letter also urges the commission to push that date back amidst public outcry. Many skeptics and consumer advocate groups believe the proposal will create internet “fast lanes,” where larger, wealthier companies will be able to deliver content to consumers far more quickly than their smaller competitors. This, critics contend, would initiate the creation of a two-tier internet.
"[The FCC] should take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce," the letter states.
According to the Guardian, one of the FCC commissioners has already proposed delaying the vote for “at least a month.”
"Rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his (Wheeler's) proposal," Jessica Rosenworcel said.
However, FCC spokesman Neil Grace told the news outlet that, as of now, the May 15 vote is still on schedule. If the proposal is approved, it would be available to the public for comment – and Grace said this process is part of the debate around the rules.
"Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online," he said.
As RT reported previously, Wheeler himself has come out to defend the proposal, saying allegations that the FCC is “gutting” the internet are “incorrect.”
“The proposed rule is built to ensure that everyone has access to an Internet that is sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand, as well as an Internet that offers innovators and edge providers the ability to offer new products and services,” he said.
Additionally, Wheeler stated that the commission stands ready to take action against any service provider that attempts to “take advantage” of an open internet.
"Let me be clear. If someone acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have-nots,' we will use every power at our disposal to stop it," he said.
His words haven’t placated critics, however, who continue to send thousands of public comments to the FCC. In addition to tech companies, some lawmakers are also panning the plan. In April, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) joined the chorus with a critical letter to Wheeler.
"Your proposal would grant Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet, which violates core Net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past,” he wrote. “Although you claim that this proposal is not a ‘turnaround,’ it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission's Open Internet Order.”