Some leading web sites including posted protests on Tuesday opposing the rollback of net neutrality rules.
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on Thursday to repeal the 2015 rules, which forbid Internet service providers from blocking, slowing, or discriminating against online sites and services. But the move led by Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai has drawn widespread protest from Internet companies and consumer and civil rights groups.
Leading ISPs like AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and Comcast (CMCSA) have said they have no plans to block or slow legal content, with or without the rules. But even large Internet companies such as Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN) have said they fear possible discrimination without the protections.
Tuesday’s protests were aimed at demonstrated one of the claimed harms from repealing the rules: That ISPs could charge customers more to reach certain web sites.
At the popular web site Reddit, visitors were greeted with a solid red banner that said: “We’re sorry, but you’ve exceeded your allotted bandwidth for HTTPS://WWW.REDDIT.COM. Please update your internet plan to continue browsing.” Etsy (ETSY) and Kickstarter offered pro-net neutrality posts with links to contact Congress. Other sites taking part in the protest included Imgur, Mozilla, Pinterest, and Mozilla.
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Congress has been split on the issue and leading Republicans in the House and Senate have shown little interest in getting involved. Still, 28 mostly Democratic senators asked Pai in a letter last week to delay the vote. And group of more than 20 technical experts, including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, sent a letter to Congress on Monday asking that the FCC repeal vote be set aside due to “a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology.”
Pai has said he intends to go forward with the vote. Last week, the chairman, a former associate general counsel for net neutrality opponent Verizon, showed a humorous video joking that he was a “puppet” for the telecom giant. Pai has also argued that Twitter (TWTR) and other social media sites are a greater threat to free expression on the Internet than ISPs.
Under Pai’s proposal, Internet providers would be allowed to slow or block content—and charge more or prioritize some sites for faster connections—as long as the policies were publicly disclosed. The Federal Trade Commission could investigate if the disclosures were accurate and police the policies for antitrust violations under the plan.