Silicon Valley Aims To Rally Opposition To Net Neutrality Rollback

Online retailer Amazon, browser developer Mozilla, tech incubator Y Combinator and social news site Reddit are among dozens of Web companies that are planning to rally support for net neutrality.

The tech companies, along with advocacy groups like the ACLU, Fight for the Future and the American Library Association, say they will participate in an "Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality,” scheduled for July 12 -- two days before the Federal Communications Commission stops accepting comments on its proposal to gut the 2015 open Internet rules.

When a divided FCC passed those rules, the agency reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier regulations. The regulations include three "bright-line" prohibitions -- a ban on throttling or blocking content and on charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. The rules also include a "general conduct" standard that broadly prohibits Internet service providers from unreasonably impeding the ability of consumers and content providers to reach each other.

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Current FCC Chairman Pai, who opposed the 2015 net neutrality rules, recently proposed that the agency reverse the decision to classify Internet access as a utility service, regulated under Title II of the Communications Act, and also abolish the general conduct standard. Pai's proposal also seeks comment on the "bright-line" prohibitions.

Even though that proposal appears to leave open the possibility of preserving the ban on throttling or blocking content, a federal appellate court ruled in 2014 that the FCC lacks authority to impose those prohibitions on non-Title II services. In other words, if the FCC reverses the decision to treat broadband as a utility, it will no longer have the authority to ban providers from blocking or degrading content.

Five years ago, Silicon Valley companies successfully rallied opposition to an a controversial anti-piracy bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act. That bill, which took aim at “rogue” piracy sites, provided for court orders banning search engines from returning links to such sites. The bill also provided for orders prohibiting credit card companies and ad networks from doing business with piracy sites.

Sites including Wikipedia and Reddit went dark on January 18, 2012 to protest that bill, while Google and other sites called on users to express opposition. Lawmakers who had previously endorsed the measure withdrew their support that day.

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