More than a hundred technology companies have come out in opposition to plans by the US communications regulator to scrap net neutrality rules.
In May 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to review rules that prohibit broadband providers from slowing or blocking internet content delivery to consumers.
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The Obama-era net neutrality rules also prohibited broadband providers from prioritising traffic from content providers who are willing to pay higher fees for faster delivery.
But some internet service providers (ISPs), including Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon favour a two-tiered internet service model that allows them to charge a premium fee for prioritising traffic.
These ISPs and other supporters of scrapping net neutrality claim that government legislation of the internet is an unnecessary barrier to innovation and economic growth.
They also claim net neutrality rules discourage investment in telecoms infrastructure.
Twitter, Google, Facebook, Reddit, Netflix, Amazon, Kickstarter, Github, Mozilla, Dropbox, ProtonMail and Tutanota are among the tech firms collaborating to support the internet-wide Day of Action on 12 July 2017 in favour of net neutrality.
The campaign claims that the FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what people see and do online.
“If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees,” the campaign states, urging supporters of net neutrality to contact the FCC and Congress.
“No one wants their cable company to control what they can see and do on the internet, or to charge extra fees to access the content they want,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, one of the leading organisations behind the protest.
“The internet has given more people a voice than ever before, and that transformative power is worth fighting for. On July 12th, we will come together to defend the future of free speech,” he said.
Nearly 70,000 people, sites, and organisations have signed on to the effort overall, and more announcements from major companies are expected in the coming days, according to Greer.
The importance of net neutrality
Net neutrality supporters claim the internet has thrived because of net neutrality, which makes the internet a place for creativity, free expression, and exchange of ideas. “Without net neutrality, the internet will become more like cable TV, where the content you see is what your provider puts in front of you,” the net neutrality campaign states.
“For democracy to thrive, information must flow freely, and without net neutrality, this core principle is compromised,” said Andy Yen, founder of Switzerland-based ProtonMail.
“Equal access to the internet is one of the main drivers of innovation and it is at the core of what makes the internet such a powerful tool for the betterment of mankind. Therefore, it is imperative that net neutrality be preserved around the world,” he said.
According to secure email service provider Tutanota, defending net neutrality is like a first step to defend democracy itself.
“If net neutrality is lost, there is no way of turning back: Big corporations will own the internet, big corporations will decide what we see online, big corporations will dominate the public opinion, big corporations will dominate any future decision to be made in politics,” said Matthias Pfau, co-founder and developer of Tutanota.
“If we win this fight for a free and open internet, we prove the power of the internet. The internet has become the perfect place to organize public resistance when the ruling class tries to seize too much power. We have to keep control of what belongs to us,” he said.
In April 2014, members of the European Parliament voted strongly in favour of proposed legislation to prevent telcos blocking or slowing down selected services for any reason.