As online and real-world protesters organize to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) best efforts to stifle net neutrality, online corporate giants have joined the fight. The FCCs pay-for-play proposal, which would primarily benefit telecommunication giants such as Comcast and Time Warner, creates an uneven playing field that increases costs to companies and individual content providers who can least afford it. Content providers and online businesses would have to pay Internet service providers (ISPs) for bandwidth in order to reach their audience on the worldwide web.
On May 7, a cadre of activists lined the sidewalk in front of the FCCs main offices in Washington, D.C. They have promised to remain in protest there until the commission next meets, on May 15, to make a final decision on the fate of the world’s most powerful information network. Organizer Evan Greer was quoted saying that his group does not have the force of dollars and high-powered lobby firms to communicate the group’s concerns to the FCC.
Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, is well-acquainted with lobby groups. Wheeler was once a lobbyist himself and his resume is filled with work in the telecommunications industry. He was even in favor of the attempted merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, a deal struck down by the Department of Justice on grounds of antitrust. His former industry stands to make money as a result of the FCCs proposed rules.
Now, large Internet companies are coming out against the FCC rules. Companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Google, Kickstarter, and Foursquare have come out to protest the division of the Internet into fast and slow ″lanes.″ The companies urge for an open platform which would leave the global computer network open and available for all, on an equal basis.
This sentiment mirrors a statement from the recent NetMundial conference, held in Sao Paolo Brazil, which advocated for the idea of ″multistakeholders″ who each participate in the Internet on an equal basis, regardless of financial strength. The nation of Brazil also codified a new law which seeks to protect net neutrality from the very sorts of harms the FCC is urging.
So far, only one FCC member has come forward to ask that the public be allowed time to discuss the blow to net neutrality which would potentially stifle speech and commerce across the nation, and world. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworce, a Democrat, countered the urgency to implement rules benefitting telecommunications companies with the urgency of a free and open society to determine its own fate with a full vetting of the facts at stake.
Senator Al Franken (D-MN), has also put his support behind net neutrality. His office has sent numerous e-mails to garner support for an open network and to inform the public as to the importance of net neutrality and the threat it faces from the FCC and telecommunications giants such as AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner.
With the support of large corporations and grassroots citizens, Net neutrality may survive this latest assault from the FCC. The agency under pressure from telecommunications lobbyists both on the outside and from within its own ranks, so the fight will not be easy.
By Hobie Anthony