Amazon, Google and Netflix are among 170 large web-based companies that are planning to hamper their services on July 12 in protest of planned changes by the Federal Communications Commission. The protest is part of a larger argument regarding net neutrality, to which FCC proposals would be at odds.
The proposals would roll back the Open Internet Order, an Obama-era policy that included a section largely credited with maintaining net neutrality. The section, known as Title II, prevents internet service providers from blocking or slowing web traffic for any customers or from charging fees in return for quicker service on their networks.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, announced in April that he was looking to replace the current net neutrality policy. The announcement instantly sparked a backlash from Title II supporters who believe that removing it would lead to large internet companies altering services to favor their affiliates and harm their competitors.
"This is going to be a political debate that will engage millions of people," Pai told Bloomberg TV. "But we are going to stay focused on the facts and the law."
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Pai is one of many Republicans who claim that Title II stifles growth. They say it discourages investors, imposes too much regulation and prevents competition. Large cable companies like Comcast and AT&T have also criticized Title II regulations for inhibiting ISP innovation and growth.
According to Sky News, opponents of the bill often claim to support net neutrality, asserting that Title II and net neutrality are not the same thing.
"Title II is a source of authority to impose enforceable net neutrality rules," said David Cohen, the senior executive vice president of Comcast. "Title II is not net neutrality. Getting rid of Title II does not mean that we are repealing net neutrality protections for American consumers."
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On the other side, Democrats, large tech companies and smaller websites say repealing Title II will affect net neutrality.
“The current FCC net neutrality rules are working and these consumer protections should not be changed,” said Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association, a group that includes Google, Microsoft, eBay and other organizations.
According to The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties organization, more than 40 companies wrote to the FCC to say current regulations have not harmed their ability to develop their businesses.
The July 12 demonstration will see several companies, including Netflix, Spotify and Etsy, post messages relating to slow web speed and blockages, potentially with other information regarding the FCC's proposals.
Bloomberg reports that Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Brian Schatz of Hawaii told the FCC to prepare its computer system for the upcoming influx of comments on the day of the protest.
Despite the uproar, Berin Szoka, founder of TechFreedom and a supporter of the FCC's proposals, believes the protest will be in vain.
"Their entire agenda is simply to jump up and down at the FCC, and jump up and down on the Hill, and try to obstruct a legislative deal," said Szoka.
So far, 5.6 million comments have been received, with millions coming in May after late-night TV comedian John Oliver encouraged viewers to tell the FCC they support net neutrality with Title II enforcement, Bloomberg reports. FCC is taking comments until July 17.