WASHINGTON May 8 Pressure built on the U.S.
Federal Communications Commission chairman on Thursday to delay
or abandon a plan to relax Internet traffic rules, with more
than 50 high-profile venture capitalists and another FCC member
the latest to pile on.
Prominent investors including Ron Conway of SV Angel, Chris
Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz, John Lilly of Greylock Partners,
Jason Mendelson of Foundry Group, and dozens of other VCs wrote
a joint letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, himself a former
private equity investor, sharing their concerns about the
proposed new "open Internet" rules.
"If established companies are able to pay for better access
speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level
playing field," they said in a letter released on Thursday.
Wheeler has been under fire for proposing rules that would
allow content companies to pay broadband providers for faster
Internet speeds to deliver their traffic as long as the deals
are deemed "commercially reasonable."
Ajit Pai, senior Republican commissioner at the five-member
FCC, on Thursday said he had "grave concerns" about the plan and
joined his Democratic colleague Jessica Rosenworcel in calling
for a delay of the vote scheduled for May 15.
The FCC, however, issued a finalized agenda for the meeting
that included the "open Internet" rules, indicating that the
vote is still expected. The FCC has also moved to allow
stakeholders and consumers to reach out to the agency staff
until then to give feedback.
Though Wheeler has said he would use all tools necessary to
prevent or punish Internet service providers who may "degrade
the service for all for the benefit of a few," his proposal has
triggered an outcry. Thousands of comments are pouring into the
agency's inboxes and flooding its phone lines.
More than 100 technology companies, including Internet
giants Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc
and Amazon.com Inc wrote to Wheeler on
Wednesday, warning that his proposal was a "grave threat to the
And more than 100 advocacy organizations, including the
American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation
and Writers Guild of America East, chimed in with a letter to
Wheeler and U.S. President Barack Obama:
"Internet service providers should not be in the business of
picking winners and losers online. But the proposal the FCC is
currently considering gives ISPs the power to do exactly that,
which is why it must be abandoned," the groups said.
Consumer advocates have long urged the FCC to reclassify
Internet service providers as more highly regulated utilities,
similar to phone companies, which has faced staunch opposition
from Republican lawmakers and broadband companies.
Groups are planning online and in-person rallies on May 15
under the banner of "Save the Internet" and one of them, public
interest group Free Press, on Thursday launched a website
directing people to call the FCC and lawmakers or ping them on
social media. Several protesters are already camped outside of
FCC headquarters pledging to stay until May 15.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Ros Krasny and Chizu