Pitching for a free and open Internet for everyone, Facebook, Google, Amazon and other tech giants participated in a day-long online protest organised by advocacy groups in the US.
Titled “Internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality,” the protest was organised by groups including Fight for the Future, Free Press and Demand Progress on Wednesday.
“Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be free and open for everyone. If a service provider can block you from seeing certain content or can make you pay extra for it, that hurts all of us and we should have rules against it,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post.
US President Donald Trump had appointed Indian-origin Ajit Pai to head the powerful Federal Communication Commission (FCC), the communications regulatory agency.
The advocacy groups are urging tech companies and others to oppose Pai’s plan to gut the net neutrality order which was issued in 2015.
It reclassifies broadband as a utility service and imposed several common carrier regulations — including prohibitions on throttling or blocking content and on charging companies higher fees for prioritised delivery.
On Wednesday, many websites changed their home pages or displayed their support for net neutrality in some way.
Facebook’s chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg posted that the company promotes innovation and lets people access information that can change their lives and gives voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.
“That’s why Facebook is joining this day of action to show our support for net neutrality — the idea that Internet providers shouldn’t be able to decide what people can see online or charge more for certain websites,” Sandberg said.
The July 12 campaign is reminiscent of another day in 2012 when the tech industry rebelled against a controversial copyright bill known as SOPA by altering or even blacking out their websites.
The resulting uproar resulted in Congress withdrawing the bill.
Net neutrality means a free and open Internet for everyone and it ensures that Internet service providers are not allowed to block or throttle internet traffic or discriminate against certain content.
# About 200 internet companies support net neutrality
# Donald Trump is trying to overturn Barack Obama’s net neutrality
ISPs such as Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, CenturyLink and Cox, provide users with access to the Internet. Content companies include Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. In some cases, ISPs are also content providers: for example, Comcast owns NBCUniversal and delivers TV shows through its Xfinity internet service.
Two years on, Trump’s new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, has pushed to overturn the 2015 order. On 18 May, FCC voted to support a new proposal that would repeal the order and started a 90-day period in which members of the public could comment. The deadline for feedback is 17 July, after which the FCC has to provide reply comments by 16 August, before a final vote later in the year.
Content providers including Netflix, Apple and Google support net neutrality. They argue that people are already paying for connectivity and so deserve access to a quality experience, the Guardian reported.
Big broadband companies including AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Cox do not support the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules. They argue that the rules are too heavy-handed and will stifle innovation and investment in infrastructure.
It’s the second major rollback of Obama-era internet protections. In March, Congress voted to allow ISPs to sell the browsing habits of their customers to advertisers.