Tech Companies Argue the Internet Should Be a Public Utility

Tech companies of all sizes are urging the Federal Communications Commission to enforce net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as Title II. This reclassification would mean that Internet providers would have to abide by the same laws as public utilities and there would be no Internet “fast lanes.” Representatives from Kickstarter, Spotify, Vimeo and others met with the FCC to discuss the issue last week. Netflix also submitted a filing to the FCC about the proposed net neutrality laws.

videostreamLast Friday, the FCC’s initial round of public comments on protecting an open Internet came to an end. Executives from several prominent tech companies met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just a few days before the deadline in an effort to sway the commission’s position towards a Title II reclassification that would prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from favoring certain websites by using higher transfer speeds and charging different rates.

The tech companies represented at the meeting included Kickstarter, Etsy, Reddit, Tumblr, Vimeo, Spotify, Foursquare, General Assembly and Warby Parker.

“None of these companies, when they were small, were in a position to negotiate access deals with carriers (let alone get a good deal),” Nick Grossman, who works on policy and outreach for Union Square Ventures, said in Quartz. “They all benefitted from the environment of ‘permissionless innovation,’ where all they needed to do was have an idea, build it, and let a global audience of users (not the carriers) pick the winners.”

Currently, Wheeler is trying to draft new net neutrality rules from a U.S. communications law known as Section 706. However, tech companies and legal experts believe it would be difficult to enforce non-discrimination rules without a Title II reclassification.

In fact, Netflix submitted a 28-page filing to the FCC, calling for a Title II reclassification and blasting Comcast and Verizon for streaming its videos in “nearly VHS quality.”

Netflix believes that Comcast and Verizon deliberately failed to maintain interconnection points within their Internet infrastructures, causing congestion and low-quality video. The online streaming service wants to stop paying ISPs to make streaming their video a priority. Instead, Netflix argues these companies should deliver on the Internet speeds that they promised consumers.

Netflix supports a Title II reclassification, citing “two previous attempts at regulating Internet providers as ‘information services’ failed due to a poor legal framework,” according to GigaOM. In addition, their filing also called for more transparency for ISPs and a “rebuttable presumption” test to ensure Internet delivery speeds.