Major telecommunications companies have been pushing the federal government to roll back net neutrality laws, but more than 800 startups sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to keep the regulations in tact.
"We’re deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework," the April 26 letter, directed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, states. "Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice."
The letter used Pai's own words to criticize his plans to roll back net neutrality regulations.
In March, Pai praised the potential of broadband internet to spur business.
"High-speed Internet access, or broadband, is giving rise to what I have called the democratization of entrepreneurship," Pai said, according to The Washington Post. "With a powerful plan and a digital connection, you can raise capital, start a business, immediately reach a worldwide customer base, and disrupt an entire industry."
But the group of startups wrote that rolling back net neutrality regulations decrease their competitiveness online and make it even more difficult to compete with internet service providers that will gain more control over the internet under the proposed roll backs.
"Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers," the start-ups' letter continued. "Fortunately, in 2015 the Federal Communications Commission put in place light touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. We are concerned by reports that you would replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways."
Under FCC rules, the internet is regulated similarly to a public utility, which proponents of net neutrality say is necessary to ensure the internet remains open and does not allow internet service providers to block sites that might lead to competition or slow down services of rival companies, explained Reason.com.
However, Pai said the regulations are "a panoply of heavy-handed economic regulations that were developed in the Great Depression to handle Ma Bell."