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Tech companies condemn net neutrality repeal, ISPs offer hollow promises
Hint: They’re not happy.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to kill net neutrality rules that required broadband companies to treat all web traffic equally. The official 3-2 vote, split along party lines, comes after months of public protests and millions of pro-net neutrality comments posted to the FCC’s feedback system.
Though they will likely feel the impact of today’s decision less than others, executives from some of the largest companies in the tech industry have publicly decried the vote to kill internet freedom.
Now that the regulations have been repealed, internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T have the ability to speed up, slow down, or block certain sites altogether. Many fear Thursday’s vote will lead to “fast lanes,” or plans that allow sites to pay extra for priority speeds. This could, in turn, make it difficult for startups with less capital to compete with established services like Google or Facebook.
Netflix, an outspoken supporter of net neutrality, was one of the first companies to speak up after the vote. It fought to protect net neutrality for years, but the streaming service has been accused of stepping back this time around, now that it dominates the streaming industry and has enough capital to please broadband providers.
After retweeting Mignon Clyburn, the Democratic commissioner of the FCC who voted in favor of net neutrality, Netflix wrote a post promising to continue its fight against the ruling.
We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 14, 2017
This isn't only about Netflix. Without #NetNeutrality, we would never have been able to grow into the business we have today. There's a whole future of startups that deserve that chance.
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 14, 2017
Microsoft’s president and legal chief officer Brad Smith, who previously condemned Trump’s repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also tweeted on Thursday afternoon.
The open internet benefits consumers, business & the entire economy. That’s jeopardized by the FCC’s elimination of #netneutrality protections today.
— Brad Smith (@BradSmi) December 14, 2017
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, aka “Spez,” posted his reaction on the site. Reddit was arguably the most outspoken platform in support of net neutrality. The news aggregation site’s homepage was flooded multiple times with organic posts from hundreds of users who united in favor of the regulations.
“It is disappointing that the FCC Chairman plowed ahead with his planned repeal despite all of this public concern, not to mention the objections expressed by his fellow commissioners, the FCC’s own CTO, more than a hundred members of Congress, dozens of senators, and the very builders of the modern internet,” Huffman wrote.
Huffman said Reddit would be “supportive” of efforts to challenge the FCC’s decision in court. He also said Redditors should be “proud of the awareness” they generated in online discourse.
“While the fight to preserve net neutrality is going to be longer than we had hoped, this is far from over,” Huffman wrote. (You can read the full statement here.)
Some of the largest internet service providers that benefit most from the repeal also posted comments following the vote. AT&T and Comcast both tried to assure customers the new ruling would not change how they use the internet.
AT&T posted a comment attributed to Bob Quinn, its senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs. The company, which acquired DirecTV in 2015, had previously posted a banner on its site that read, “AT&T supports an open internet.” However, in 2015, AT&T sued the FCC to destroy net neutrality rules, leading many to believe its fight to uphold the principles of net neutrality is nothing but an empty promise.
“We do not block websites, nor censor online content, nor throttle or degrade traffic based on the content, nor unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic,” Quinn wrote. “These principles, which were laid out in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order and fully supported by AT&T, are clearly articulated on our website and are fully enforceable against us.”
Comcast echoed AT&T in a blog post published before the vote. The link to the post was shared today by the provider’s main Twitter account.
“This is not the end of net neutrality,” the company wrote. “Despite repeated distortions and biased information, as well as misguided, inaccurate attacks from detractors, our Internet service is not going to change. Comcast customers will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.”
We will update this article as more executives and companies post their reactions in the coming days.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.