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FCC MUST protect net neutrality to preserve AMERICA, say Google et al

US watchdog commissioner says phone has been ringing non-stop

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The biggest names on the web – from Google and Level 3 to Microsoft and Facebook – have urged the US Federal Communications Commission to safeguard net neutrality.

In a signed letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, more than 100 companies urged the watchdog to ban networks from building internet fast lanes for websites that stump up extra cash.

Amazon, Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter are among the companies listed in the letter. Yahoo, Reddit, eBay and Foursquare also backed the plea.

"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking discrimination, and paid prioritization and should make the market for internet services more transparent," the letter [PDF] reads.

"The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.

"[The FCC] should take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets."

The missive comes as the FCC is busy drafting new regulations on net neutrality and internet freedom. Recently, chairman Wheeler – who has been criticized for his past lobbying work with the telecommunications industry – proposed controversial rules that would allow network operators to cut special deals with websites to boost their connection speeds and video streaming quality. Such performance tweaks will be off limits to those who cannot or will not pay.

While Wheeler has maintained that the rules would be tightly enforced and measures would be taken against any deliberate throttling of traffic or degradation of service, the fear of a multi-tiered internet has caused public outcry.

Among the protests to spring up against the FCC was an organized gathering outside the commission's Washington DC headquarters Wednesday. The group of net neutrality advocates have vowed to spend the next week outside the FCC building in a call for the preservation of a free internet.

At least one member of the commission has heard the calls.

On Wednesday, Mignon Clyburn said that more than 100,000 have come out in support of net neutrality through petitions, calls and letters to the office. The FCC Commissioner said that while she is still evaluating the matter, she was listening to the public outcry.

"Unlike many, I actually see this remand as a unique opportunity for us to take a fresh look and evaluate our policy in light of the many developments that have occurred over the last four years," Mignon wrote.

"There is no doubt that preserving and maintaining a free and open Internet is fundamental to the core values of our democratic society, and I have an unwavering commitment to its independence." ®

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