Over 100 Internet companies — including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Microsoft, EBay, Vonage, Yahoo, Level 3 and the veritable host of others — have written to the FCC commissioners to voice their criticisms of chorus of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's draft proposal for new network neutrality rules.
They cited press reports and FCC briefings for their concern that the new rules would create a two-tiered Internet charging for fast lanes and leaving others in the slow lane.
They say, instead, the FCC should "abandon its apparent path and instead protect and preserve an open, equal internet," though they do not offer a solution that would pass court muster.
"According to recent news reports," reads the letter, "the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet."
Wheeler has teed up a vote May 15 on his proposal, which he has repeatedly pitched as a way to restore anti-blocking and anti-unreasonable discrimination rules, but in a way that will be acceptable to the courts, which means removing the ban on unreasonable discrimination and replacing it with a "commercially reasonable" standard that paid priority will likely still have a hard time meeting, as it did in the old rules.
But that has not resonated with Silicon Valley.
"According to recent news reports," the companies write, "the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet."
Absent some recognition of discrimination as a way for ISPs to differentiate service, which the court signaled was necessary, the FCC's option is likely to classify Internet access as a Title II common carrier service subject to mandatory access rules, which the court also held out as an option. Wheeler has said he will use that option if it becomes necessary.
“Chairman Wheeler fully supports a robust public debate on how best to protect the Open Internet," said an FCC spokesperson late Wednesday, "which is why he intends to put forward his proposals for public comment next week. Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online.”
Wheeler has repeatedly pointed out that the May 15 vote is on the proposal, doesn't set anything in stone, and will be an opportunity for more input from the public and stakeholders.