Angela Moon and David Shepardson
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O), Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and dozens of other major technology companies protested online on Wednesday against proposed changes to U.S. net neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from giving or selling access to certain internet services over others.
In support of the “Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality,” more than 80,000 websites – from big social media platforms like Facebook to streaming services like Netflix and matchmaking website OkCupid – are displaying banners, alerts, ads and short videos to urge the public to oppose the overturn of the landmark 2015 net neutrality rules.
Net neutrality is a broad principle that prohibits broadband providers from giving or selling access to speedy internet, essentially a “fast lane,” to certain internet services over others. The rule was implemented by the Obama administration in 2015.
Changes to the rule are being proposed by the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commision (FCC), Ajit Pai, appointed by President Donald Trump in January.
Pai wants the commission to repeal the rules that reclassified internet service providers as if they were utilities, saying the open internet rules adopted under former President Barack Obama harm jobs and investment. The FCC voted 2-1 in May to advance a Republican plan to reverse the “net neutrality” order.
During a speech in April, Pai asked: “Do we want the government to control the internet? Or do we want to embrace the light-touch approach” in place since 1996 until it was revised in 2015.
At a Capitol Hill press conference, Democrats and internet companies vowed to fight the changes and suggested internet companies could slow internet speeds. Senator Edward Markey said the internet “is under attack.”
“We will not let this takeover happen,” Markey said. “A free and open internet is our right and we will fight to defend it.”
Major broadband providers, including AT&T Inc (T.N) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), acknowledged the public support for net neutrality. They emphasized they are in favor of an “open internet” but made clear they oppose the 2015 net neutrality reclassification order that they say could lead to government rate regulation.
FCC spokesman Brian Hart declined to comment.