Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a plan to reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, prompting cheers from the Internet community. After a year of debate it appears that the pro-net neutrality movement has won the day. But while the Chairman has released broad outlines of his net neutrality plan, there’s no guarantee that the specific measures the FCC adopts will be sufficient to preserve an open playing field for startups.
To make sure that the FCC gets the details right, Engine and the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation organized a fly-in last Thursday, bringing a group of top startups to DC to make the innovator’s case for strong net neutrality rules. Representatives from Union Square Ventures, Bigger Markets, Capitol Bells, Etsy, Foursquare, Keen.io, Spend Consciously, and Vimeo spent the day at the FCC and on Capitol Hill meeting with key policymakers to discuss the future of the open Internet.
In the morning, the startups met with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and senior staff from Chairman Wheeler’s office to discuss the nuances of the Chairman’s proposal. We focused specifically on the need for rules that prevent ISP discrimination at interconnection points, and ensuring that the Commission’s general ban on discriminatory practices does not put an impossible burden on startups looking to challenge ISP activity.
The startups next moved on to the Hill, meeting with members of Congress and senior staff to discuss the proposed net neutrality legislation circulated in January. Pending FCC action renders legislation of any kind unnecessary, and the current draft bill fails to provide many basic net neutrality safeguards while simultaneously stripping the FCC of authority to protect against future ISP threats to the open Internet. The startups met with members of the House and Senate Commerce committees and let them know that startups did not view the bill as a good starting ground for a compromise, and that any legislation that offered weaker protections than those in the FCC plan would be viewed as a non-starter.
We are deeply grateful for the hard work of these startups and so many others, which has helped get the FCC to where it is today. It’s not easy for startups to take time away from their businesses to travel to Washington, but their efforts are paying dividends. With the FCC’s rulemaking in its final days, we must make sure the rules they issue are strong enough to keep the Internet open for generations of future innovators.