Tech companies push to keep net neutrality out of spending bill

Tech companies push to keep net neutrality out of spending bill
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Major technology companies are pushing Congress to keep any net neutrality-related measures out of an end-of-year spending bill lawmakers are seeking to wrap-up next week.

More than a dozen companies and trade groups representing the largest players in the industry sent a letter Wednesday to House and Senate leadership calling for a trio of provisions to be kept out of the “chaotic appropriations process.”

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“We are writing to urge you to refrain from including riders relating to net neutrality and the Federal Communication Commission’s Open Internet Order in the upcoming omnibus spending legislation,” the companies wrote in the letter spearheaded by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance. 

Companies signing the letter include Cogent, Etsy, Kickstarter, Tumblr, Twilio and Vimeo. Trade groups Engine, Incompas and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) also signed it.

CCIA represents Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Yahoo and many other tech companies. 

The House on Wednesday unveiled a short-term continuing resolution to give negotiators a few more days to haggle over the larger deal.

Negotiators have kept a tight lid on what might make it into the deal, and while it is unclear if it will include tech-related provisions, even some Republicans opposed to the administration's net neutrality rules have said it is unlikely because of the controversy surrounding it. 

Tech advocates have mounted a sustained campaign for the past month to pressure Democrats to fight to keep out anything related to the FCC’s Internet rules, which reclassified broadband service so the agency would have more authority to police net neutrality — the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. 

A trio of net neutrality riders made it into the House’s financial services appropriations bill earlier this year.

One would have delayed the order until a court battle ends, another would ban rate regulation, and a third would require the FCC to publicly publish the text of its orders before future votes. 

Only the rate regulations rider made it into a similar Senate appropriations bill. 

Those two bills advanced out of committee but never made it to the floor amid Democratic opposition. But they could be used as a starting point in negotiations. 

The FCC has said it has no intention of regulating the rates that companies charge customers for Internet access. And in the letter Wednesday, tech companies said they agree with the spirit of that rider. 

However, they have warned that it is written too broadly and that it could harm other aspects of the order dealing with interconnection, zero-rating and enforcement action against fraudulent charges. 

“To that end, we request the issue be addressed through regular order, a more thoughtful and pragmatic approach, rather than in the often chaotic appropriations process,” the companies wrote in the letter.