Pai's Net Neutrality Plan Under Cyber (Monday) Attack

Airbnb, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter and Vimeo were among over 200 businesses that signed a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dated Monday, Nov. 27 (as in Cyber Monday), trying to dissuade him from his planned net neutrality rule rollback vote.

Pointing to the Cyber Monday hook for the letter, they called the online shopping version of the brick-and-mortar Black Friday "a testament to the power of the free and open internet to encourage entrepreneurship, drive innovation, make our lives easier, and to support a healthy economy."

"Disastrously, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week released a draft order that would end open [internet] commerce by repealing the current net neutrality rules and eliminating the protections that keep the internet free and open for America’s businesses and consumers," they wrote.

The draft order was released three weeks before the planned vote as part of Pai's ongoing transparency initiative to publish the text of items before they are voted at a public meeting.

The FCC is scheduled to vote at the Dec. 14 public meeting on a proposal to reclassify ISPs, wired and wireless, as information services under Title I regulations free of mandatory access requirements. It would also eliminate rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, leaving it to the Federal Trade Commission to enforce ISPs' voluntary pledges not to block or throttle--paid prioritization is a grayer area--and to the Justice Department to decide whether those outliers who didn't pledge not to block or throttle were being anticompetitive, or whether paid prioritization constituted an anticompetitive practice.

"Without these rules," they wrote Pai, "internet service providers will be able to favor certain websites and e-businesses, or the platforms they use to garner new customers, over others by putting the ones that can pay in fast lanes and slowing down or even blocking others. Businesses may have to pay a toll just to reach customers. This would put small and medium-sized businesses at a disadvantage and prevent innovative new ones from even getting off the ground."

They essentially asked Pai to oppose his own proposal, which is highly unlikely.

"The FCC should vote against this order that rolls back the net neutrality rules just as Americans across the country spend billions online this holiday season," they wrote.

Pai almost certainly has two other votes--both Republicans--to approve his net neutrality reg rollback plan.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.