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Web Companies Sound Alarm On Neutrality Moves

More than 100 Internet companies, including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Reddit, Microsoft, EBay, Vonage, Yahoo, Level 3 and a veritable host of others, have written to the commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission, adding their voices to the chorus of critics of chairman Tom Wheeler's draft proposal for new network neutrality rules.

They cite press reports and FCC briefings for their concern that the new rules would create a two-tiered Internet charging for fast lanes and leaving others in the slow lane.

They say, instead, the FCC should "abandon its apparent path and instead protect and preserve an open, equal internet," though they do not offer a solution that would pass court muster.

"According to recent news reports," reads the letter, "the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet."

Wheeler has teed up a vote May 15 on his proposal, which he has repeatedly pitched as a way to restore anti-blocking and anti-unreasonable discrimination rules, but in a way that will be acceptable to the courts. Which means removing the ban on unreasonable discrimination and replacing it with a "commercially reasonable" standard that paid priority will likely still have a hard time meeting, as it did in the old rules.

Silicon Valley thus far doesn't see anything reasonable about the proposal.

Absent some recognition of discrimination as a way for ISPs to differentiate service -- which the court signaled was necessary -- the FCC's option is likely to classify Internet access as a Title II common carrier service subject to mandatory access rules. The court also held that out as an option.

Wheeler said at the Cable Show in Los Angeles he will use the Title II option if it becomes necessary.