Major Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix, and civil society organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge take part today (12 July) in a massive online ‘day of action’ in support of the US net neutrality rules. The rules, adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015, are now at risk of being overturned by the Commission. As part of the Battle for the Internet initiative, companies and organisations are expressing support for these rules by displaying alerts on their websites showing ‘the world that the web will look like without net neutrality’. Users are encouraged to send letters to the FCC and the US Congress in support of net neutrality, and to share the message via their websites, blogs, or social media. Telecom provider AT&T – a vocal opponent of the 2015 rules – has announced it is also joining the day of action, noting that it supports an open Internet, but not the current regulations.
The Internet’s success lies in its design, which is based on the principle of net neutrality. From the outset, the flow of all the content on the Internet was treated without discrimination. New entrepreneurs did not need permission or market power to innovate on the Internet. With the development of new digital services, especially the ones consuming high bandwidth such as high-quality video streaming, some Internet operators (telecom companies and ISPs) started prioritising certain traffic – such as their own services or the services of their business partners – based on business needs and plans, justifying such an approach with a need to raise funds to further invest in the network. Net neutrality proponents strongly fight back such plans arguing this could limit open access to information and online freedoms, and stifle online innovation.