Internet companies from around the U.S. — including Amazon and Microsoft — have banded together to try and pressure the Federal Communications Commission into adopting rules that would maintain net neutrality.
The New America Foundation, a non-partisan think-tank, published an open letter from more than 100 tech companies asking the FCC to avoid adopting rules that would allow broadband providers to sell faster access to their customers.
“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 letter reads. “The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.”
The companies signed on to the letter include Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter, along with a wide array of other companies from across the tech sector. While there are a few names notably absent from among the signers, including Apple, Box, Oracle and SAP, New America Foundation Fellow Marvin Ammori said their absence may have been related to how the letter was compiled.
“Until yesterday or Monday late evening, this was a startup/small company letter. Period,” he wrote in an email to GeekWire. “We had 0 big guys. I didn’t even really ask. It was all the little guys organizing and pushing this letter. Some big guys wanted to join because they agreed with the substance, and then more and more, but I hardly did any outreach to them, and it was sort of haphazard.”
The letter comes a week before the FCC is expected to unveil new proposed rules for how the Internet is regulated. Right now, reports point to the Commission proposing a set of rules that would allow broadband providers to charge extra money to Internet companies who want faster access to customers. Many see that as a significant policy change from its earlier Open Internet Order that was struck down by an appeals court, which ruled that the order imposed a set of rules on broadband providers that were too similar to existing “common carrier” regulations.
Now, the FCC has a choice: either create rules that don’t run afoul of the court’s ruling, or declare that broadband providers are common carriers. Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman and a former lobbyist for the cable industry, seems reluctant to do so. That means the commission’s only other option is to allow broadband providers to charge Internet companies for faster access to their users. As today’s letter makes clear, the tech industry seems unwilling to allow that to happen without a fight.