Some of the digital world’s largest companies have joined forces to protest the US government’s plans to roll back net neutrality. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Airbnb are just some of the firms taking part in a “day of action” against the new head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, who has openly criticized 2015’s “open Internet” rules as “heavy handed”, and who wants to reduce regulation on web services.
Pai began the formal process of dismantling net neutrality this May, when he launched his “Restoring Internet Freedom” paper. If made law it will break down current barriers preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from favoring or penalizing services with faster, or slower, web speeds.
This follows April’s statement from the powerful Washington, DC-based digital lobby group the Internet Association (IA), which announced that “the internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online. Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact.”
Today’s action, which some reckon to be the largest online protest in history, will also involve services like Reddit and Netflix, whose businesses stand to be directly affected by Pai’s move. Other pressure groups, such as civil liberty organizations and librarians, have blased the FCC’s proposal.
“Ajit Pai has made it clear that he doesn’t care what millions of people have to say or to listen to the voices of the leading technology companies in the world,” Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight For The Future, told Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.
ISPs have come out in favor of the FCC, agreeing with Pai that the open Internet rules were “all about politics”. The Obama administration used a 1930s-era legal framework called ‘Title II’, created to reduce the Ma Bell telecommunications monopoly, to apply to the Internet. ISP executives have stressed that regulation prevents investment in broadband technology–and that protesters are conflating Title II and net neutrality.