Some of the biggest names in tech came out in defense of net neutrality in an open letter yesterday, condemning the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) alleged proposal to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to charge more for faster service, effectively slowing down those who cannot pay the premium.
Some of the names were familiar, like Google and Reddit, who’ve come out publicly against legislation that threatened net neutrality in the past, but others such as Amazon who’ve been quiet thus far, were a surprise.
“According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them,” the companies said. “If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the internet.”
Under the proposed guidelines, ISPs would be allowed to split their broadband service into a more expensive, faster one and a cheaper, slower one.
It’s important to note that these changes are aimed, not at individuals who use the internet in their home, but at companies who want and can afford to pay more to have their content streamed into customers’ homes faster than the competition.
That means content from big companies like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and Apple will be much easier and more enjoyable to access, stifling startups and independent content creators who’s exposure will be diminished.
“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for internet services more transparent,” the letter read. “The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.”
Amazon, Dropbox, Ebay, Etsy, Facebook, Foursquare, Google, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, Lyft, Microsoft, Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo and Zynga and more than 130 other companies all signed onto the letter.
Related: Net Neutrality, Explained
“Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. The innovation we have seen to date happened in a world without discrimination,” the letter said. “An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users.”
The FCC is scheduled to vote on the new rules on May 15, however Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay yesterday on the vote and seeks a formal public comment period.
Rosenworcel said the FCC was getting “tens of thousands of emails, hundreds of calls” and comments “all across the Internet.”
“We need to respect that input and we need time for that input,” she says. “I think the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road.”
Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, also came out against the proposal saying net neutrality is “under threat like never before and that “mom-and-pop stores would lose even more ground to corporate giants.” Democractic Representative Anna Eshoo of California said opposition to the proposal was spreading “like a prairie fire.”
This isn’t the first time the tech community has rallied around a common cause and been able to change legislative outcomes. In January 2012, major tech companies including Google, Tumblr and Reddit blacked out their websites with messages against SOPA and PIPA to proposed copyright laws that they said threatened many of the innovative qualities of the internet.
The movement was successful and several legislators who had previously supported and even sponsored the legislation reversed their position.