Twitter, Airbnb and a host of smaller internet companies hit out at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to scrap net neutrality rules, as an outcry over the move intensifies ahead of a crunch vote in December.
In a letter addressed to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a string of internet companies urged the commission to reconsider his plan, arguing the move “would be the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers”.
Pai and the FCC last week unveiled a proposal to repeal net neutrality rules, which prohibit fixed and mobile providers from blocking, throttling or prioritising paid internet content.
The proposal would do away with those rules, first introduced in 2015 under the Obama administration, and return regulation of internet service providers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In the letter, which was also signed by companies including Reddit, Shutterstock and Tumblr, the companies argued the end of the regulations would be detrimental to economic growth, innovation and competition on the internet.
“E-commerce continues to grow and nearly $400 billion in retail sales were online last year. The internet is increasingly where commerce happens,” the companies wrote, adding: “This economic growth is possible because of the free and open internet. Our net neutrality rules support innovation and give all businesses the opportunity to compete equally for consumers.”
The letter continued to describe the FCC’s proposed repeal as “disastrous”, as the companies urged the commission to vote “against this order” and keep the internet a “free and open marketplace that encourages innovation and supports robust competition”.
In a statement responding to the letter, FCC representative Mark Wigfield argued the internet and companies like Twitter thrived under the pre-2015 light touch regulatory framework governing internet access.
“Chairman Pai wants to return to that framework so that we can increase investment in broadband networks and connect more Americans to the services that these companies offer online,” he added.
In addition to the letter, advocates of current net neutrality laws have scheduled protests on 7 December at Verizon stores throughout the US to voice dissatisfaction at the operator’s perceived support of the FCC’s plans.
Large service providers including AT&T and Comcast also support a repeal.
The FCC is set to vote on Pai’s proposal on 14 December.