Net Neutrality: Netflix Goes Directly to the FCC as Google, Yahoo, and Others May Launch a SOPA-Style Protest
In the wake of leaks about new, weaker, Open Internet rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission, and soon after Netflix had to pay two internet service providers for better access to their customers, Netflix has taken its concerns directly to the FCC. Meanwhile, Google, Yahoo, and other internet heavies may be planning a SOPA-like grassroots protest for net neutrality.
Netflix has now paid Comcast and Verizon for direct access to their networks, something that is pretty much unprecedented and contrary to the way the internet usually works. Feeling the pinch, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has called for a stronger version of net neutrality -- one that would protect his company and others from unreasonable interconnect fees.
But beyond the public outcry, Netflix has shown its serious about its stronger net neutrality manifesto: this week it took its concerns directly to the FCC in meetings with the agency's staff, according to a report by Reuters.
New Open Internet Rules and Potential Backlash
This comes as the FCC is considering new Open Internet rules to replace the net neutrality-friendly Open Internet program, struck down by a federal court earlier this year. The new rules leaked late last month, and to say the least, they're being perceived as less than net neutrality-friendly.
The new rules, while still requiring ISP transparency and banning them from blocking any internet traffic, would allow for deals between ISPs and websites and services to provide better service. In my opinion, this is incredibly anti-competitive, anti-consumer, and would be the death of net neutrality as we know it.
And it appears that some major internet technology companies share those concerns: According to The Wall Street Journal, officials inside member companies of the Internet Association -- a trade group that includes Google, Yahoo, Netflix, and others -- are "considering mobilizing a grass-roots campaign to rally public opiion around the idea that the internet's pipes should be equally open for all."
Major internet companies have run such a campaign before, to great effect. In 2011, to end the possibility of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) -- an awkwardly written, overreaching bill that would have outlawed, or at least made litigable, many ordinary web practices -- from being turned into law, a coalition of web companies, including Reddit, Google, Wikipedia, and others mounted black-outs, strikes, or other forms of protests. After a day with no Wikipedia, Craiglist, or cute internet "Cheezburger" cats, popular support rallied against the bill and SOPA and its companion bill the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were defeated in Congress.
While some, like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, believe the anti-FCC protest could go as far as the SOPA action, it's not clear if as many websites would be willing to face potential backlash from ISPs like Comcast, which could control more than a third of the internet if its merger with Time Warner Cable is approved.
One thing is certain. The FCC's new proposed rules will be officially unveiled in the next week or two, and there's going to be a ruckus on the web: We'll just have to wait and seen how big it will be.
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