Google, Facebook, Amazon Warn FCC Rules Pose ‘Grave Threat to the Internet’

Tech giants lobby for stronger net-neutrality rules.

A man passes under the Google sign at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on January 5, 2010.  Google unveiled its new "superphone," the Nexus One, marking the online search giant's first leap into the smartphone market.  UPI/Mohammad Kheirkhah
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
May 7, 2014, 2:15 p.m.

The world’s largest tech­no­logy com­pan­ies are com­ing out in force against the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s pro­posed reg­u­la­tions of In­ter­net ac­cess.

In a let­ter to the FCC Wed­nes­day, Google, Face­book, Amazon, Mi­crosoft, Twit­ter, Ya­hoo, Net­flix, and dozens of oth­er com­pan­ies warned that the FCC’s plan to al­low In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders to charge web­sites for faster ser­vice in some cases “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,” the com­pan­ies wrote.

“Such rules are es­sen­tial for the fu­ture of the In­ter­net.”

It’s not yet clear wheth­er the tech gi­ants are plan­ning any lar­ger protest of the pro­posed net-neut­ral­ity rules. Many of the same com­pan­ies par­ti­cip­ated in a massive protest in 2012 that de­railed the con­tro­ver­sial Stop On­line Pir­acy Act, or SOPA. Google, for ex­ample, blacked out the logo on its home page (the most vis­ited web­site in the world) and col­lec­ted 7 mil­lion pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures in a single day.

Two Demo­crat­ic FCC com­mis­sion­ers also ex­pressed con­cern with the pro­pos­al on Wed­nes­day, throw­ing the reg­u­la­tions in­to jeop­ardy. FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er will need both Demo­crat­ic votes to move the planned reg­u­la­tions for­ward at a meet­ing next Thursday.

The FCC first en­acted net-neut­ral­ity rules in 2010, but the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals struck them down in Janu­ary. Wheel­er is try­ing to re­work the rules in a way that can sur­vive fu­ture court chal­lenges.

His pro­pos­al would ban In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders from block­ing web­sites but would al­low them to charge for spe­cial “fast lanes” as long as the ar­range­ments are “com­mer­cially reas­on­able.”

Wheel­er ar­gues that his pro­pos­al is on strong leg­al ground and would pre­vent ab­uses.

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