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article imageGoogle, Microsoft, Netflix tell FCC not to destroy net neutrality

By James Walker     Apr 12, 2017 in Internet
A trade body representing over 30 of the largest companies in Silicon Valley has met with FCC chairman Ajit Pai to discuss the importance of preserving net neutrality regulations. The FCC is expected to roll back its net neutrality rules later this month.
The FCC's new chairman Ajit Pai will relax the Obama-era protections around net neutrality later in April, the Wall Street Journal reported last week. Although Pai is yet to make any comments in public, he's expected to drop official regulation forcing internet providers to maintain net neutrality. Instead, they'll promise in writing not to slow the traffic of competitors.
The move introduces room for unscrupulous operators to begin disregarding the principles of net neutrality. While unconfirmed, alarm bells are already ringing in Silicon Valley. Today, members of the Internet Association – a trade body of other 30 companies uniting around net neutrality – met with Pai and his staff to defend the web's future.
Companies from across the Internet industry again abandoned their usual rivalries to send a single message to the FCC. In a filing summarising the meeting, Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman described the FCC's current Open Internet order as a "vital component of the free and open Internet," a view upheld by all the companies involved.
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify and Twitter are amongst the dozens of companies that form the Association. Several of the members, such as Netflix and Spotify, could individually benefit if they exploited less stringent net neutrality rules to convince providers to favour their services. However, the group collectively recognises the need for an open Internet, one of the founding principles of the web and something its creator Tim Berners-Lee has been vocal in supporting.
"The Internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," wrote Beckerman in the Association's filing. "In other words, existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact."
Pai's new approach to net neutrality is widely expected to do away with rules and instead create a kind of moral code web companies and providers voluntarily agree to. Responsibility for monitoring this system would be directed to the FTC, rather than the more powerful FCC.
Silicon Valley firms and web users have widely criticised the decision as it's far less stringent than the current Open Internet legislation. It stops short of an outright ban on preventing net neutrality. The plans could allow the creation of so-called "internet fast lanes" where content gets preferential treatment depending on its sender and type.
Pai didn't discuss his ideas with the Internet Association and hasn't yet launched any formal proceedings to replace the existing legislation. He's said to have first mentioned the plans during a private meeting with web providers last week.
Although nobody's meant to know about it yet, this week's discussion won't have gone so well. With the tech industry reaffirming its support of the far stricter rules currently used, it's clear Pai won't be able to overhaul net neutrality without meeting with significant opposition.
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