Opposition Mounts To FCC Chair's Planned Broadband Regs

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to allow Internet fast lanes is continuing to draw opposition from a broad array of Web companies, investors and net neutrality proponents.

Today, dozens of venture investors wrote to the FCC to express concern about the proposal. “If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level playing field,” the investors write. “Start-ups with applications that are advantaged by speed (such as games, video, or payment systems) will be unlikely to overcome that deficit no matter how innovative their service. Entrepreneurs will need to raise money to buy fast lane services before they have proven that consumers want their product.”

The investors tell the FCC: “We need simple, strong, enforceable rules against discrimination and access fees, not merely against blocking.” Signatories included Andreessen Horowitz's Chris Dixon, Y Combinator's Sam Altman, Union Square Venture's Fred Wilson and True Ventures' Om Malik (who also founded the tech blog GigaOm).

They are responding to Wheeler's proposal to pass new broadband regulations that would prohibit carriers from blocking content, but would allow them to charge companies for prioritized delivery.

Wheeler says his suggested regulations will reinstate the “concepts” of the open Internet rules that were passed in 2010, but invalidated by a court earlier this year. But there's a big difference between the 2010 rules and Wheeler's blueprint: The old rules prohibited wireline providers from charging extra for fast-lane service.

Groups like Free Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation quickly said they oppose  Wheeler's plan, as did Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), a leading neutrality proponent on Capitol Hill.

Yesterday, a coalition of more than 100 major tech companies -- including Google, eBay, LinkedIn and Amazon -- also weighed in against the proposal. “Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrim­ination, and paid prioritization,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said yesterday that the FCC should delay voting on Wheeler's plan for at least one month. For now, the FCC is still scheduled to consider the proposal on May 15.

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