The Federal Communications Commission's plan to repeal the net neutrality rules poses an "imminent threat" to the Internet, a group of prominent technology experts say in a letter to Congress.
World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, and 17 others are asking lawmakers to pressure the FCC into canceling plans to repeal the net neutrality rules.
"The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create," the tech experts say in a letter to Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) and Michael Doyle (D-New Jersey).
Berners-Lee and the others argue that the FCC's planned repeal is "based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding" of the web. "The technically-incorrect proposed Order dismantles 15 years of targeted oversight from both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs, who understood the threats that Internet access providers could pose to open markets on the Internet," they write.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed reclassifying broadband as an "information" service, and repealing rules that prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. The agency has scheduled a December 14 vote on the proposal.
Berners-Lee, Cerf and the others argue that the planned repeal "removes long-standing FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation."
The technologists also call attention to a filing submitted to the FCC in July, which argued against the proposal. "As developers, engineers, and designers, we realize that without openness and neutrality the Internet as we know it will cease to exist, because it is that openness and neutrality that gives the Internet its flexibility, leads to its growth, and has made it a vital resource for all aspects of modern life," those earlier comments stated. "In short, if the current rules are not preserved, the rapid pace of innovation the Internet has experienced over the last forty years could come to a disastrous halt."
Twenty-eight senators recently urged the FCC to postpone its planned vote. But some Republicans, including Blackburn, said last week the agency should proceed with plans to dismantle the regulations.
Pai claims that his repeal order will restore the regulatory regime that existed before 2015. Despite that claim, the FCC imposed net neutrality rules on broadband providers in 2010; those rules were in effect until 2014, when a federal appellate court struck them down.