Tech companies make Cyber Monday appeal to save net neutrality

Tech companies make Cyber Monday appeal to save net neutrality
© Greg Nash

Hundreds of tech companies and groups, including Twitter, Airbnb, Reddit and Vimeo, are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated on Cyber Monday, the companies touted the growth of e-commerce as “a testament to the power of the free and open internet to encourage entrepreneurship, drive innovation, make our lives easier, and to support a healthy economy.”

"The internet is increasingly where commerce happens," the letter said, noting that Americans last year spent nearly $3.5 billion on Cyber Monday.

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"Our current net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers. With strong net neutrality protections, the internet is an open marketplace where any business can compete, allowing individuals to start companies easily, market their products across the country, and connect with customers anywhere worldwide," they wrote.

The letter from some of the web's most prominent companies comes as the FCC is poised to vote on Dec. 14 to roll back the net neutrality rules. The rules aimed to create a level playing field on the internet. They prevent internet service providers like AT&T and Time Warner Cable from prioritizing and blocking certain content.

But Republicans and service providers have seen the rules as a burden and claim they prevent investment in broadband.

Pai's “Restoring Internet Freedom” is likely to be approved by the commission's Republican majority.

The plan will remove key net neutrality provisions like stopping internet service providers from throttling some websites, and also strip the FCC of its ability to regulate such service providers, instead giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority. Critics argue that the FTC doesn’t have enough power to effectively regulate such companies.

“Without these rules, internet service providers will be able to favor certain websites and e-businesses, or the platforms they use to garner new customers, over others by putting the ones that can pay in fast lanes and slowing down or even blocking others,” Monday's letter from tech companies said.

“This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground,” they wrote.

Pai and telecom companies have defended the plans to roll back net neutrality, arguing that critics' fears are overstated and won't undermine the open internet.

Comcast, in an ad campaign, is promising customers that it will not “block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.”

Republican lawmakers and telecom companies say rolling back net neutrality rules will boost investment in broadband infrastructure, benefiting consumers in the long term.