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‘Day of action’ for net neutrality promised by big tech companies

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Major tech companies will join campaign groups in an internet-based “day of action” in support of net neutrality in July, in response to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rollback of the Obama-era policy.

Led by newly appointed chairman Ajit Pai, the US telecoms regulator is in the process of repealing regulation introduced under Barack Obama in 2015, which strictly rule that all internet content should be treated equally.

Repealing this legislation could allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block or slow down internet traffic whenever they feel it to be appropriate and allow corporations to pay more to access a high-speed lane to promote their content.

“Without net neutrality, the Internet will become more like cable TV, where the content you see is what your provider puts in front of you,” the campaign website says.

In December last year, Mr Pai promised in a speech to remove the rules that regulate or “hold back” ISPs, arguing that net neutrality holds back investment, innovation and job creation.

“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules,” he said.

The FCC’s decision to repeal the legislation protecting net neutrality has been welcomed by ISPs but met with anger from internet users. A recent poll of 1,000 adults, published by Ipsos and Mozilla, suggests that 76 per cent of Americans support net neutrality.

Net neutrality is “fundamental to free speech, competition, innovation and choice online,” Mozilla wrote in a blog post.

Mozilla is just one tech giant involved with the protest planned for July 12. Other organisations protesting the FCC’s decision include Amazon, Reddit, Patreon, Kickstarter, Vimeo, Etsy, Github, the American Civil Liberties Union, Greenpeace, and the Public Library of Science.

According to the campaign website: “The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship and extra fees. On July 12, the Internet will come together to stop them.”

In 2014, a number of major websites went on an “Internet Slowdown” protest to encourage the FCC to classify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act; this would ban ISPs from creating fast-lanes for some paid content. Netflix, Vimeo, PornHub and other sites added widgets that would cause pages to load very slowly, in a demonstration of how it could look to navigate online when all content is not treated equally.

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