On April 26, more than 800 startups, innovators, investors, and entrepreneurial support organizations from all 50 states joined Engine, Y Combinator, and Techstars in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to protect a free and open internet.
In recent weeks, there have been reports that Pai is working on plans to dismantle the 2015 Open Internet Order. This is concerning to the startup ecosystem, which depends on an open internet with enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure that small companies can compete on a level playing field without the threat that their services will be put at a competitive disadvantage by big cable and wireless companies.
As the letter argues, “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...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 letter notes that any new scheme that simply requires minimum voluntary commitments from ISPs “would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.” Instead, Pai should uphold strong, enforceable rules. Additionally, signatories urge the Chairman to “focus instead on policies that would promote a stronger Internet for everyone,” such as removing unnecessary barriers to construction of new networks.