Tech companies urge US FCC to scrap 'net neutrality' plan

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Tech companies urge US FCC to scrap 'net neutrality' plan

Rail against "discrimination".

One hundred and fifty technology companies have written to US telecom regulators to oppose a new "net neutrality" plan that would regulate how internet providers manage web traffic.

The letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and the agency's four commissioners, warning of a "grave threat to the internet," came as one FCC commissioner called for a delay of a vote on the plan scheduled for May 15.

"Rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his (Wheeler's) proposal," Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

She called for a delay of the vote to formally propose Wheeler's plan by "at least a month."

Wheeler has been under fire for proposing new so-called "open internet" or "net neutrality" rules that would allow content companies to pay broadband providers for faster internet speeds delivering their traffic as long as the deals are deemed "commercially reasonable."

Consumer advocates are worried the rules would ultimately allow companies such as Comcast or Verizon to create "fast lanes" on the web for traffic of content companies that pay up, potentially shutting out poorer newcomers.

The latest to weigh in is the consortium of technology and internet companies, which ranged from household names like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, to small startups. They called on the FCC to "take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce."

Commission rules should not permit "individualised bargaining and discrimination", the companies said.

FCC spokesman Neil Grace said Wheeler does not plan to delay the May 15 vote. Though Wheeler has written and spoken about his proposal, the suggested rules have not been made public in full.

"Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online," Grace said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of public comments have been received by the FCC on Wheeler's plan over the past two weeks, and commission staff have met with nearly 100 stakeholders, including public interest groups and internet content providers.

A handful of protesters gathered in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington today, vowing to show up daily until the May 15 vote, when a high-profile demonstration is expected.

Consumer advocates have long urged the FCC to reclassify internet service providers as more highly regulated utilities, like telecom companies, a view that has faced staunch opposition from Republican lawmakers and broadband companies.

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