Net neutrality: Amazon among top internet firms planning day of action

Exclusive: Etsy, Kickstarter and other leading companies to fight FCC plans to neuter 2015 rules in July protest backed by ACLU, Greenpeace and more

Ajit Pai has pledged to take a ‘weed whacker’ to internet regulations.
Ajit Pai has pledged to take a ‘weed whacker’ to internet regulations. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Some of the world’s largest internet companies are planning a day of action in defense of open internet rules now under attack by the Trump administration.

Amazon, Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla and Vimeo all intend to hold a day of protest on 12 July in opposition to plans by Donald Trump’s newly appointed telecoms regulator to neuter tough 2015 rules meant to protect “net neutrality” – the concept that all traffic should be equal online.

Ajit Pai, new head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pledged last year to take a “weed whacker” to rules that regulate internet service providers like any other companies providing utilities such as water or electricity, arguing they were too onerous on cable companies and stifled innovation.

The potential rollback of the regulations has already sparked huge online protest, and more organisations and companies are likely to join the day of action in the coming days.

Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said: “The internet has given more people a voice than ever before, and we’re not going to let the FCC take that power away from us. Massive online mobilization got us the strong net neutrality protections that we have now, and we intend to fight tooth and nail to defend them.”

Alongside Amazon and others, the day of action is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Library Association, Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, Greenpeace, MoveOn, Organizing For Action and many others.

Michael Cheah, general counsel of Vimeo, said: “Net neutrality made it possible for Vimeo, along with countless other startups, to innovate and thrive. The FCC’s proposed rollback of the 2015 open internet rules threatens to impede that innovation and allow a handful of incumbent ISPs to determine winners and losers.”

Global tech companies including Google, Netflix and Twitter joined a similar day of protest in 2014 helped push the FCC to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a move that banned internet service providers from creating fast or slow lanes for services – a situation that critics argue would allow them to pick winners and losers online.

Those rules have been challenged repeatedly since they were brought in but have failed to be overturned in court. However, with the FCC under Republican control, cable companies have made a renewed effort to overturn the rules, arguing they stifle innovation and investment. According to the cable company-supporting Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, broadband investment has gone down roughly 2-3% since the introduction of the Open Internet Order.

The FCC’s last discussion of open internet rules attracted more than 4m comments, a record that has already been surpassed this time with more than 5m comments so far. The FCC’s website crashed after the comedian John Oliver, a consistent supporter of net neutrality, lambasted Pai’s latest comments in May. Oliver set up a site directing people to comment on the FCC proposal.

Mark Stanley, communications director of Demand Progress, said: “The FCC’s plan to dismantle net neutrality will unfairly pad the bottom lines of Comcast and the rest of Big Cable, while undermining the public’s ability to freely communicate, organize, and innovate. Every few years, a threat so severe confronts the open internet that people, organizations and companies from across the political spectrum – including some of the largest online platforms – must band together in common cause to fight back. The FCC’s ongoing effort to roll back net neutrality protections represents just such a threat – and on the 12 July day of action, we’ll once again use the transformative power of the internet to defend the internet itself.”