Consumerist
by Chris Morran

The day after around 150 Internet and tech companies asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to remove discriminatory loopholes from his net neutrality proposal, another large coalition — comprised of everything from consumer advocates to educators to Reddit to… the Harry Potter Alliance — has written to both Wheeler and President Obama, calling for the FCC to drop the controversial plan to allow Internet “fast lanes.”

Once again, the fast lane idea would allow Internet service providers to charge a premium to content companies for better and faster delivery of their data. This sort of prioritizing of content was prohibited under the neutrality guidelines that a federal appeals court gutted earlier this year.

“We strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider and abandon efforts to adopt rules that would harm — rather than preserve — Net Neutrality,” reads the letter, signed by groups including Free Press, ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and our colleagues at Consumers Union. “The open Internet is a forum for free speech, innovation, civic engagement and the exercise of our basic rights. The Internet achieved this status because it was created on a platform governed by the principle of nondiscrimination.”

At the core of a neutral Internet is the idea that all data is treated equally regardless of who is transmitting it. Wheeler (a former front man for both the cable and telecom industries) contends that his proposal keeps neutrality intact by prohibiting ISPs from blocking or slowing down data, but in our view, and those who signed this latest letter, that only deals with half the problem.

“[I]nstead of restoring this important principle of nondiscrimination, the Commission’s proposal would make things even worse,” continues the letter. “It would reportedly propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers (ISPs) to discriminate both technically and financially against fledgling online companies, independent media outlets, nonprofit organizations and anyone else with a website.”

As we’ve argued numerous times in recent weeks, the letter states that the existence of fast lanes would incentivize ISPs to “create ‘artificial scarcity’ to extract new sources of revenue,” resulting in a “two-tiered Internet: a fast lane for those willing or able to pay for it, and a dirt road for the rest of us.”

Rather than establishing net neutrality, the groups state that this “is the opposite of a free and open Internet.”

“Internet service providers should not be in the business of picking winners and losers online,” concludes the letter. “But the proposal the FCC is currently considering gives ISPs the power to do exactly that, which is why it must be abandoned. Instead, the Commission must propose and adopt legally sound rules that keep the Internet an open and nondiscriminatory platform for speech and innovation.”

Here is the full text of the letter and the full list of those groups who signed:

Dear President Obama and Chairman Wheeler:

We are writing to express our support for a truly free and open Internet. We strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider and abandon efforts to adopt rules that would harm — rather than preserve — Net Neutrality.

The open Internet is a forum for free speech, innovation, civic engagement and the exercise of our basic rights. The Internet achieved this status because it was created on a platform governed by the principle of nondiscrimination.

In 2010, the FCC attempted to incorporate this principle into its open Internet rules. Those rules were thrown out earlier this year, leaving Internet users in limbo while the FCC decided its next move.

Now, instead of restoring this important principle of nondiscrimination, the Commission’s proposal would make things even worse. It would reportedly propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers (ISPs) to discriminate both technically and financially against fledgling online companies, independent media outlets, nonprofit organizations and anyone else with a website. These policies would create troubling incentives for ISPs to create “artificial scarcity” to extract new sources of revenue. The result will be a two-tiered Internet: a fast lane for those willing or able to pay for it, and a dirt road for the rest of us.

This is discrimination pure and simple. It is the opposite of a free and open Internet.
President Obama, in 2007 you told the world, “I am a strong supporter of Net Neutrality,” rightfully asserting “that one of the best things about the Internet … is that there is this incredible equality there.”

And Chairman Wheeler, last fall you wrote that “[o]ne of the signal achievements of this latest great information revolution — our network revolution — is how the results of its diffused control and increased autonomy produce ‘innovation without permission.’”

We wholeheartedly agree with both statements. Internet service providers should not be in the business of picking winners and losers online. But the proposal the FCC is currently considering gives ISPs the power to do exactly that, which is why it must be abandoned. Instead, the Commission must propose and adopt legally sound rules that keep the Internet an open and nondiscriminatory platform for speech and innovation.

Sincerely,
Access
American Civil Liberties Union
Appalshop, Inc.
Art
Beyond Sight
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Media Justice
Centre College
Citizens for Sanity
ColorOfChange
Common Cause
Consumers Union
Council on American-Islamic Relations
CR Consulting
CREDO Mobile
Daily Kos
Defending Dissent Foundation
Demand Progress
Democracy for America
Diversified Media Enterprises
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Engine Advocacy
Entertainment Consumers Association
Evanston Community Television
FAIR
Fight for the Future
Free Press
Free Software Foundation
Future of Music Coalition
Glocal
Greenlining Institute
Greenpeace USA
Hackers & Founders
Harry Potter Alliance
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Just Foreign Policy
LAMP (Learning About Multimedia Project)
Latino Print Network
LatinoRebels.com
Louder Media Alliance
The Media Consortium
Media Equity Collaborative
Media Literacy Project
Media Matters for America
Media Mobilizing Project
MoveOn.org Political Action
Museums and the Web
The Nation
National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture
National Association of Black Journalists
National Association of Hispanic Journalists
National Association of Latino Independent Producers
National Hispanic Media Coalition
Netroots Foundation
New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute
New Moon Girls
NTEN
Occupy Network
OpenMedia.org
Pacific University
Park Center for Independent Media, Ithaca College
Participatory Politics Foundation
PEN American Center
The People’s Press Project
Personal Democracy Media
PopularResistance.org
Presente.org
Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Prometheus Radio Project
reddit
Reel Grrls
RootsAction.org
Savvy System Designs, Inc.
SOA Watch San Francisco
St. Paul Neighborhood Network
The Stonewall Chorale Student Net Alliance
SumOfUs
Tarakali Education
TheUpTake.org
ThoughtWorks
Tin House
Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University
United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc.
Upwell Women In Media & News
Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press
Women’s Media Center
Writers Guild of America East
X-Lab