Internet companies launch offensive against FCC's net neutrality rollback

Major internet companies took part Wednesday in a "Day of Action" to show their support for the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

On websites and social media, companies tried to rally the public and urged Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai not to kill the Obama-era rules, which require internet providers to treat all web content the same.

Twitter promoted a tweet and hashtag backing net neutrality, the first time it has done so on a policy issue.

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On discussion forum Reddit, users saw a graphic warning them that without the rules broadband companies could slow down some websites.

Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg penned blog posts in support of the rules.

"Right now, the FCC has rules in place to make sure the internet continues to be an open platform for everyone,” Zuckerberg wrote. “At Facebook, we strongly support those rules. We're also open to working with members of Congress and anyone else on laws to protect net neutrality.”

And Google’s public policy team shared a message to mobilize users as part of its "Take Action" campaign on policy issues.

The protest was organized by advocacy group Fight for the Future.

Earlier this year, Pai unveiled his plan, titled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” which took aim at the FCC’s ability to regulate broadband providers — a power that allowed the FCC to mandate net neutrality. Broadband companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast immediately supported the plan. But consumer advocacy groups and internet companies vowed to fight the proposal.

Net neutrality proponents argue that if internet service providers (ISPs) don’t have the FCC’s regulatory oversight keeping them from prioritizing or slowing down certain types of content, the public’s overall experience on the web could suffer.

Amazon announced that it would be participating in the day as well, but did not respond to queries asking how it would be participating.

Some companies, including Snapchat parent company Snap, are opting to participate through the Internet Association (IA), a trade association for internet companies that represents their policy and political interests in Washington, D.C.

"Without a free and open Internet, Snapchat would not be what it is today,” a Snap spokesperson said.

“We strongly believe in affording future innovators the same opportunities,” noting that Snap had no specific plans to participate on their own, but that “as a Board member of the Internet Association, we are supporting their Net Neutrality Day activities on July 12 and encourage those interested in keeping a free and open internet to visit IA’s site to learn more about how to make their voices heard.”

In advance of the Day of Action, IA launched a GIF-laden website explaining their support for net neutrality.

Broadband giants like AT&T, though, strongly back Pai's plan and used the day to push forward their case.

AT&T, despite a long history opposing the net neutrality rules, said it was joining in the day of action because it also backed a free and open internet without burdensome FCC regulations.

Verizon and Comcast in statements offered support for Pai's plan and an open internet.

“Our business practices ensure full protections for our customers and the public, and will continue to do so no matter which direction the FCC ultimately decides to go with its Open Internet regulations,” Comcast’s senior vice president David L. Cohen wrote in a post. “The scare tactics being pursued by some groups that ISPs like Comcast will block or throttle lawful content are simply untrue.”

But consumer groups and web companies hope the show of force on Wednesday will be enough to sow  debate.

The video website Vimeo directed users to submit comments on the issue to the FCC.

And Airbnb, Netflix and Expedia also displayed banners on their home pages asking their customers to take action to save the rules.

This story was updated at 1:23 p.m.