Some of the nation’s biggest Internet companies on Wednesday called on the Federal Communications Commission to preserve access to an open Internet and refrain from policies that would enable broadband providers to charge special rates for faster access to their pipes.
“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,” more than 100 companies wrote to the FCC commissioners in a letter.
“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,” the companies added. “The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.”
Signatories to the letter included Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook, Level 3 Communications, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Yahoo and Vonage.
On May 15, the FCC is expected to vote on a Net neutrality proposal that critics have griped would enable broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications to charge fees to content companies like Netflix for the right to prioritize traffic.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing regulations in another attempt to prevent blocking of lawful content and unreasonable favoritism of certain Internet traffic. In January, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. overturned previous FCC regulations that prohibited fixed broadband providers from blocking lawful content and unreasonably discriminating on their networks.
In a speech last month before the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Wheeler vowed to protect consumers’ access to the Internet.
“There has been a great deal of talk about how our following the court’s instruction to use a ‘commercially reasonable’ test could result in a so-called ‘fast lane’ and Internet ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’”, Wheeler observed. “This misses the point that any new rule will assure an open pathway that is sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand and innovators and edge providers the ability to offer new products and services.”
Wheeler was even more to the point, adding: “We will not allow some companies to force Internet users into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service.”