Two commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission have come out saying the agency should delay its plans to implement new network neutrality rules amid a growing backlash. Wednesday Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai joined his colleague Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel in calling for the agency to delay the release of a Notice of Proposed Rule making that would set off the creation of new rules.
The FCC has indicated that the rules will focus on creating a paid prioritization scheme that could let ISPs charge content providers like Netflix extra fees to obtain faster delivery of their packets over last mile networks. This “fast lane” proposal has already led almost 100 internet companies including Amazon, Google and Facebook to send a letter to the FCC asking it to avoid such a plan.
Today over 50 venture capitalists issued their own letter to the commission asking for it to reconsider, while several organizations are planning a May 15 protest ahead of the open meeting where the FCC planned to issue its formal documents that would start off the proceeding.
The protest effort also includes banners that companies can place on their web sites on May 15 to protest the proposed rules, and tools that make it easy for people to contact the FCC or their Congressperson to share their opinions. It’s reminiscent of the protests leading up to the SOPA/PIPA legislation in 2012 that galvanized tech firms and the internet community to band together to stop legislation.
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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, has said that the rules would not lead to internet fast lanes, but his denials and the information the agency has offered about his plans don’t match. It seems that now, a week before the meeting, momentum is building to get him to fall back on the rules as proposed. Should he delay, the next big question is if the rules could change substantially, perhaps by attempting to reclassify broadband or even go an alternative route that could still preserve many of the business models we associate with the internet today.