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Tech Giants Make Net Neutrality Case As Deadline Nears

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right) and Facebook lobbyist Joel Kaplan are part of the Internet Association, which filed comments in support of net neutrality Monday.
Alex Wong
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right) and Facebook lobbyist Joel Kaplan are part of the Internet Association, which filed comments in support of net neutrality Monday.

It's not just comedian John Oliver coming out against cable companies to support net neutrality. The world's largest Internet companies — Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — have officially chimed in, filing comments Monday to the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees Internet traffic.

The tech companies are part of the Internet Association, a lobbying group representing three-dozen Internet companies. It made a unified case for the tech firms in comments filed this morning.

At issue is how to maintain equal access to the Internet for all consumers, without priority for certain content providers who can afford to pay more to send their content (like Netflix movies) to users at faster speeds.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's current proposal, which he put forward in May and has since received 647,000 public comments, prompted public backlash because it would allow broadband providers to charge websites for faster service as long as the arrangements are "commercially reasonable."

The Internet Association says that's dangerous. The group argues that broadband access providers, like Comcast, have the financial incentive to clog Internet traffic and essentially make Web companies, like Netflix, pay "tolls" for faster lanes to consumers and turn the Internet into "a pay-for-priority platform more closely resembling cable television."

"It shifts the balance from the consumers' freedom of choice to the broadband Internet access providers' gatekeeping decisions," the group writes.

The lobbying group is instead backing "simple, light-touch rules" to ban providers from blocking or discriminating against any Internet traffic and apply them to cell networks and wired broadband connections.

Tuesday is the deadline for the first round of comments on the FCC proposal. Individual tech companies and broadband companies say they will be filing lengthy comments tomorrow.

"In our case, we haven't had a problem with open Internet rules," Comcast VP of Government Communications Sena Fitzmaurice said. "In 2010, we supported that whole process, we had no problem putting them as a condition on our deal because we thought they struck a good balance."

After tomorrow's deadline, the public can reply to the first round of comments until Sept. 10. The FCC will then decide which regulations to enact.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.
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