Microsoft Corp. and Google pleaded with US regulators on Monday to preserve strong net neutrality rules, while AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. backed weakened oversight and said Congress should settle the issue that’s burned for more than a decade.
The tech pillars and the broadband providers are trying to sway the Federal Communications Commission, which is moving toward gutting rules against interfering with Web traffic. Monday was a deadline for comments on the FCC proposal advanced by Republican chairman Ajit Pai entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom,” which already has attracted more than 8 million online comments.
The rules passed by an Obama-era, Democrat-led FCC bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing data — to hinder rivals, for instance, or to favor affiliated services — and from setting up “fast lanes” that would cost more.
Under Pai’s proposal announced in April, the FCC would end its claim to strong legal authority to enforce the rules, and the chairman asked whether the FCC should retain the ban on paid fast lanes.
For broadband providers, the change would remove a threat of intrusive rate regulation as FCC authority is cut back.
If Congress passed a law, that would insulate net neutrality rules from changing as partisan control of the FCC switches following elections.
Web-based companies see peril in relaxing rules they say protect consumers’ ability “to enjoy the unfettered ability to access the lawful content of their choice,” the Internet Association, a Washington trade group with members including Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Netflix Inc., and Amazon.com Inc., said in a filing Monday.
Undoing the rules “would introduce significant uncertainty and would threaten the virtuous circle of innovation” that’s seen broadband services boom.
Internet service providers see the issue differently, and argue that the embattled rules have deterred broadband investment.