Battle lines are drawn in fight over net neutrality
WASHINGTON — Microsoft Corp. and Google pleaded with U.S. regulators on Monday to preserve strong net neutrality rules, while AT&T and Verizon Communications backed weakened oversight and said Congress should settle the issue that’s burned for more than a decade.
The tech pillars and the broadband providers are trying to sway the Federal Communications Commission, which is moving toward gutting rules against interfering with web traffic. Monday was a deadline for comments on the FCC proposal advanced by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” which already has attracted more than 8 million comments.
The rules passed in 2015 by an Obama-era, Democraticled FCC bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing data — to hinder rivals, for instance, or to favor affiliated services — and from setting up “fast lanes” that would cost more. Under Pai’s proposal announced in April, the FCC would end its claim to strong legal authority to enforce the rules.
For broadband providers, the change would remove a threat of intrusive rate regulation as FCC authority is cut back.
Web-based companies see peril in relaxing rules that they say protect consumers’ ability “to enjoy the unfettered ability to access the lawful content of their choice,” said the Internet Association, a Washingtonbased trade group with members including Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. in a filing Monday. Undoing the rules “would introduce significant uncertainty and would threaten the virtuous circle of innovation” that’s seen broadband services boom.
Internet service providers see the issue differently and argue the embattled rules have deterred broadband investment.
The current FCC rules include “the framework for price regulation — a toxic approach if the goal is to encourage investment,” Verizon said in its filing.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is pushing to gut 2015 net neutrality rules, a move backed by internet service providers.