Last month President Obama waded into the fray over the future of net neutrality, and recommended that regulators treat the Internet as a public utility by prohibiting site-blocking, paid prioritization, and other tiered and gatekeeping behaviors. Now nearly 60 major technology companies–including Cisco, IBM, and Intel–are fighting back.
In a letter to Congressional leaders and the Federal Communications Commission, this newly assembled coalition of tech heavyweights argues that “such a dramatic reversal in policy is unnecessary to ensure an open Internet.” Classifying broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which governs management of the broadcast spectrum, would jeopardize “building and deploying ever more capable and faster networks,” they write.
The coalition may find an advocate in FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who leads the independent regulatory agency and has been saying in private meetings that he would prefer a less-than-neutral approach. According to the Washington Post, he recently expressed frustration with Obama and proposed a compromise approach while meeting with companies including Google and Yahoo, which have supported net neutrality in principle and did not sign the letter.
Although the latest additional voices are new, the battle lines remain the same: Net neutrality largely pits Internet infrastructure companies against technology companies with advertising-based business models. It started as a turf war confined to Silicon Valley and Washington, but has gone mainstream–complete with a White House petition that garnered over 100,000 signatures–in part due to the social media savvy of net neutrality advocates.
The FCC is set to issue its revised rules next year.