ISPs sur­prise net neu­tral­ity fans on protest day

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

NEW YORK: AT&T has a sur­prise for tech firms and in­ter­net ac­tivists sup­port­ing net neu­tral­ity, the prin­ci­ple that bars in­ter­net ser­vice providers from play­ing fa­vorites with web­sites and apps. Al­though AT&T has fiercely fought the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion’s net-neu­tral­ity rules, it’s back­ing Wed­nes­day’s “day of ac­tion” de­nounc­ing AT&T and other ISPs.

Of course, AT&T doesn’t ac­tu­ally agree with the aim of the protest - to sup­port the 2015 reg­u­la­tion that the FCC wants to over­turn now that Repub­li­cans are in charge.

AT&T says it sup­ports an “open in­ter­net” and be­lieves com­pa­nies shouldn’t block web con­tent or slow down videos from other providers. Rather, AT&T says it merely op­poses the FCC rules that set it in place. Com­cast and Ver­i­zon joined AT&T in mak­ing that dis­tinc­tion. ISPs don’t like the FCC’s ap­proach be­cause it treats in­ter­net ser­vice as a util­ity and comes with more over­sight. They worry about price reg­u­la­tion and say the rules hurt broad­band in­vest­ment.

Tim Karr, the cam­paign direc­tor for Free Press, an ad­vo­cacy group that sup­ports net neu­tral­ity, slammed the ISPs for “sim­ply at­tempt­ing to fake the funk, pre­tend­ing to sup­port net neu­tral­ity while op­pos­ing the (FCC) rules that make it an en­force­able re­al­ity.”

The 2015 reg­u­la­tion is the only set of net-neu­tral­ity rules that courts have up­held. In­ter­net ac­tivists and tech firms hope that the protest will pres­sure Congress and the FCC, the way a highly vis­i­ble 2012 on­line protest in­clud­ing the black­out of Wikipedia’s English-lan­guage site for 24 hours helped kill anti-piracy leg­is­la­tion that tech com­pa­nies equated to in­ter­net cen­sor­ship.

This year’s on­line protest is more muted. Net­flix put a gray ban­ner at the top of its home page and is tweet­ing out “gif” an­i­ma­tions in sup­port. Ama­zon’s web­site has a small square invit­ing users to “learn more.” Twit­ter is pro­mot­ing “net neu­tral­ity” as the top trend­ing topic in the US Google tweeted a blog post. Smaller tech com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Airbnb and Etsy have fat ban­ners on their home pages.

Karr said that in­ter­net users have taken “hun­dreds of thou­sands of ac­tions,” like con­tact­ing the FCC. There had been about 6 mil­lion fil­ings on net neu­tral­ity’s over­turn made to the FCC as of Tues­day night, both sup­port­ing and op­pos­ing the pol­icy; that had risen to 6.7 mil­lion Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. —AP

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