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Big Tech Argues in For Net Neutrality

by Countable | 11.30.17

What’s the story?

During this week of cyber shopping deals, more than 200 tech companies - including Twitter, Reddit, Airbnb, and Etsy – have sent the FCC a letter asking the agency to reconsider its plan to repeal "net neutrality."

The letter, addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, touted the growing role e-commerce plays in the American economy, noting that "last year, Americans spent almost $3.5 billion online on Cyber Monday, making it the largest online sales day in history." Spending on Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and every other day in between led to nearly $400 billion in online retail sales last year. “The internet,” the letter stated, “is increasingly where commerce happens.”

It continued:

"This economic growth is possible because of the free and open internet."

The letter was written in response to the FCC’s announcement that it plans to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules that required internet service providers (ISPs) treat all web traffic equally. The rules prevented ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable from prioritizing or blocking content, essentially creating "fast" and “slow lanes” on the internet.

Pai said his proposal, known as "Restoring Internet Freedom," would “abandon this [current] failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet."

Restoring Internet Freedom will be put to a vote at the FCC’s December 14 meeting. With the GOP controlling three of the commission’s five seats, the net neutrality rollback is expected to pass. The Cyber Monday letter was an attempt to influence that vote.

Why does it matter?

Pai said that in place of net neutrality, "the FCC would simply require internet service providers [ISPs] to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."

In their letter, however, the tech companies write that any changes are unnecessary, as "our current net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers. With strong net neutrality protections, the internet is an open marketplace where any business can compete, allowing individuals to start companies easily, market their products across the country, and connect with customers anywhere worldwide."

They added:

"The current rules provide the protections necessary to protect net neutrality and ensure the internet remains a free and open marketplace that encourages innovation and supports robust competition."

Pai, however, wrote on page one of his proposal that Restoring Internet Freedom "will promote future innovation and investment. And more investment in digital infrastructure will create jobs, increase competition, and lead to better, faster, cheaper Internet access for all Americans, especially those in rural and low-income areas."

What do you think?

Which is it? Will repealing net neutrality "promote future innovation and investment"? Or do the current rules ensure the online marketplace “encourages innovation and supports robust competition”? Whether you’d sign the Cyber Monday letter, or vote with Pai, hit Take Action and tell your reps. Or use our widget to contact Pai directly.

—Josh Herman

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