Open Internet

Startups Send Letter to FCC in Support of Title II


Today, Engine released a letter signed by over 100 startups making clear that entrepreneurs and innovators fully support Title II reclassification to preserve an open Internet. Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plan to implement strong net neutrality rules. Fellow FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai—in a last ditch effort to argue against Title II reclassification—claimed in a press release that “small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs” did not support Title II. Startups from across the country, including Automattic, Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, Imgur, Kickstarter, Tumblr, and Yelp, wrote today to set the record straight.

Startup support for Title II and net neutrality is nothing new, as the letter notes: “Because net neutrality is such an important issue, the startup community has been engaged in the Commission’s Open Internet proceeding to an unprecedented degree. The clear, resounding message from our community has been that Title II with appropriate forbearance is the only path the FCC can take to protect the open Internet. Any claim that a net neutrality plan based in Title II would somehow burden ‘small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market’ is simply not true.”

These startups were built and thrived under a de facto net neutrality regime, and if the Internet economy is to continue its unparalleled growth, preserving an open playing field is crucial. Allowing ISPs to use their gatekeeper power to pick winners and losers on the Internet is the real threat to the continued viability of these startups, not a regulatory structure based in Title II.

Startups Head to DC for Final Push on Net Neutrality


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,, 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.

Statement on Startups Meeting with FCC and Congress on Net Neutrality



Representatives from several prominent startups joined Engine and New America's Open Technology Institute in Washington DC today in advance of the FCC's upcoming net neutrality vote. They met with FCC members and staff as well as legislative leaders to discuss the importance of an open Internet to the startup community, and the need for strong net neutrality rules and enforcement mechanisms.

Evan Engstrom, Engine Policy Director, and Alan Davidson, Director of the Open Technology Institute, released the following statement:

"Engine and the Open Technology Institute are proud to have organized a group of leading startups to continue championing a truly open Internet. FCC Chairman Wheeler's recent announcement that he intends to reclassify the Internet under Title II was a major victory for the startup community and all advocates for net neutrality. However, the battle is far from over.

"Today's meetings will allow us to push for specific rules that are strong enough to prevent any form of ISP discrimination and flexible enough to allow the FCC to preempt future threats to the open Internet. We have seen the tremendous impact that startups can have on the net neutrality debate. In the weeks ahead, we'll be working with these startups and many others to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation for generations to come. The Internet has flourished as a space for innovation without permission, and strong net neutrality rules will ensure that remains the case."

Engine Statement on Proposed Net Neutrality Rules


In response to today's announcement on FCC net neutrality rules, Engine Policy Director Evan Engstrom released the following statement:

Today’s announcement from Chairman Wheeler represents a tremendous victory for the Internet and startup communities in the debate over net neutrality. Just one year ago, nobody imagined the FCC would reclassify broadband under Title II. And then the community mobilized. Engine was proud to work with hundreds of startups and other partners in urging the FCC use all available policy tools—including Title II—to protect the open Internet. Many of those startups spent the past year meeting with policy makers and making a public case for strong protections. The impact they had on the FCC’s rulemaking shows how powerful the technology community’s voice—particularly that of startups—has become in Washington.

While reclassification is a big win for startups, it’s only part of the equation. The FCC must now ensure that the rules it creates under Title II authority are strong enough to prevent ISPs from discriminating against startups and flexible enough to allow the FCC to preempt future threats to the open Internet. We at Engine look forward to being part of that process and making sure the voice of the startup community continues to be heard in Washington.

Net Neutrality Shake Up: Sprint Endorses Title II, GOP Introduces Legislation


Today marked something of a sea change in the net neutrality debate that has gripped the country for the past year. The reclassification of broadband as a common carrier service under Title II seemed all but dead on arrival just a few short months ago. This cast real doubt on the future of startups in this country, and the jobs and economic opportunities that they create.

Now, groups that once bristled at the mere mention of strong net neutrality rules are publicly embracing the tenets of an open Internet. Perhaps most exciting is Sprint declaring their support for Title II reclassification, making them the first national mobile carrier to do so. Sprint’s announcement is further evidence that reclassification would do nothing to chill investment in the expansion of broadband infrastructure.

The other big news of the day was the release of a net neutrality bill from House Republicans. This bill includes some encouraging provisions, including rules that prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling, or charging edge providers for preferential access to customers—the cornerstones of any strong net neutrality rules—and applies these rules to both wireless and wireline broadband. Of course the devil is in the details, and upon closer examination it is clear that the proposed legislation would do much to undermine the future of an open Internet.

For one thing, the bill appears to apply to only customer-facing prioritization, meaning that the rules will not prevent ISPs from using their gatekeeper power to extort money from edge providers at the peering/interconnection level. Since some of the most notable net neutrality violations in recent history involved interconnection, this loophole may be large enough to swallow the rules altogether. And, since the proposed legislation would prohibit the FCC from addressing any future avenues for discrimination, ISPs would simply have to be more creative in how they extract rents from edge providers.

The bill would also rescind an important tool that allows the FCC and state agencies to ensure broadband competition and deployment—Section 706. While 706 by itself is an insufficient grant of authority to effectively ensure an open Internet, it still has an important role in policing ISP malfeasance. As President Obama discussed earlier this week, the FCC can and should use its 706 authority to overturn laws (passed at the behest of large ISPs) that prevent municipalities from providing broadband for their citizens. Under the proposed House bill, the FCC will lose its ability to vacate these anti-competitive handouts to ISPs. Similarly, invalidating 706 as a grant of authority could diminish the role of the FCC and similar state agencies in reviewing harmful broadband consolidation, like the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner.

While it’s encouraging to see those once opposed to net neutrality start talking about rules that would protect an open Internet, it would be naive to think that the proposed legislation is anything other than an attempt by ISPs and their supporters to squeeze whatever benefit they can from what they see as a bad development: the FCC’s impending decision to reclassify broadband under Title II. The proposed legislation fails to offer the same strong net neutrality rules that the FCC can provide under Title II, and instead would make it impossible for the FCC to act in the future to protect a vibrant Internet.

The legislation as drafted seems to be little more than a last ditch effort by the opponents of net neutrality to prevent a reclassification that seems increasingly inevitable. Those of us in the startup community who have been fighting for an open Internet must continue to make a clear case to legislators, the FCC, and members of the public: Title II reclassification is the best way to guarantee net neutrality, not just in the short term, but for generations to come.


2014 Year in Review — Net Neutrality: Where We've Been, and Where We're Going


This post is one in a series of reports on significant issues for startups in 2014. In the past year, the startup community's voice helped drive notable debates in tech and entrepreneurship policy, but many of the tech world's policy goals in 2014, from net neutrality to patent reform, remain unfulfilled. Stay tuned for more year-end updates and continue to watch this space in 2015 as we follow the policy issues most affecting the startup community.

Of all the tech policy issues that got major airtime in 2014, few resonated so deeply with the general public as the fight over net neutrality. The net neutrality debate highlighted both the strength of the Internet community’s voice and the ample work we must still do to make sure Washington heeds our message. Thousands of companies that depend on the Internet’s open playing field and millions of Americans who recognize the threat posed by unchecked ISP gatekeepers mounted a sustained and effective campaign throughout the year to influence the FCC’s net neutrality rulemaking. While these efforts have been enormously successful in getting the FCC to take net neutrality seriously, the task is not yet finished.

This year’s net neutrality fight was not the first time the FCC grappled with these questions. Though the FCC in 2002 (wrongly, we believe) classified broadband Internet as an “information service” under the Communications Act of 1934, rather than a “telecommunications service,” broadband Internet has always been governed by net neutrality principles. Under such principles, ISPs are obligated to treat all sources of data equally and not block or degrade traffic from particular edge providers. The FCC enshrined these principles as enforceable rules in its 2010 Open Internet Order, which established regulations against ISP discrimination.

Earlier this year, an appellate court in D.C. threw out out these 2010 rules not because of any inherent infirmity with the logic of net neutrality itself but on something of a legal technicality: only “common carrier” services could be subject to bright line rules against discrimination, and since the FCC neglected to classify broadband as a common carrier telecommunications service, it could not now bar ISP discrimination. The court held that any rules issued pursuant to the FCC’s section 706 authority—a statutory mandate to enact policies that promote the adoption of broadband—could not include a ban on paid prioritization arrangements or other forms of access fees unless the FCC first reclassified broadband as a common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act. Faced with this rejection of its 2010 rules, the FCC was asked yet again to reconsider how and whether to protect a neutral Internet.

Reports earlier this spring suggested that the FCC was not considering any plan involving reclassification, which signaled to the Internet community that the FCC was essentially turning its back on net neutrality altogether. The reaction to these reports was swift and effective. Engine, along with the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation  sent a letter to the FCC with nearly 200 major Internet company signatories demanding that the Commission issue rules sufficient to block discrimination and paid prioritization. The FCC got the message, and its notice of proposed rulemaking solicited comments on whether to reclassify broadband under Title II in order to establish meaningful net neutrality rules.

Even as the FCC discussed the possibility of reclassification in its proposed rules, few believed that reclassification had any chance of going forward. Unwilling to accept a world in which ISPs could abuse their gatekeeper power to impose rent-seeking access fees, the Internet community got to work. The path from toothless rules under section 706 to the imminent possibility of full-fledged net neutrality regulations under Title II was paved most visibly by a stunningly large public response. Nearly 4 million commenters wrote to the FCC about its consideration of new net neutrality rules, a majority of whom supported calls for stronger regulations to prevent ISP misconduct. Recognizing that the high cost of access fees that ISPs could charge edge providers would ultimately get passed on to consumers, citizens fought back against allowing ISPs to serve as gatekeepers to the Internet.

Startups also played a key role in shifting the FCC’s consideration of net neutrality rules towards more meaningful regulations under Title II. Despite having limited resources and time to devote to challenging the lobbying might of cable companies, startups from across the country worked hard to keep the Internet open for permissionless innovation, filing comments with the FCC, participating in an Internet-wide protest, and flying to Washington, D.C. to gin up political support for real net neutrality. As the dire consequences of abandoning net neutrality would be felt more deeply by smaller companies rather than larger, more established tech firms, startups took on an outsized role in the net neutrality fight.

In the face of this massive popular response, the FCC moved haltingly towards a Title II-based solution, leaking news that it was considering a so-called “hybrid” net neutrality proposal that relied in part on Title II authority, but would have entailed significant risk of being rejected again in court. Under such hybrid proposals, the FCC would divide every Internet communications into two distinct components—a communication between an end user and her ISP and a communication between the ISP and the edge provider the user wants to access—and regulating only this second communication under Title II. While news that the FCC was finally considering Title II in some form was encouraging, the Commission’s failure to recognize that full-fledged Title II reclassification represented a far cleaner path to strong net neutrality was frustrating.

With the FCC expected to circulate a final draft rule only weeks after news of the “hybrid” plans leaked, the time for action appeared to be running out. And then, almost overnight, the conversation changed when President Obama called on the FCC to use Title II reclassification to protect an open Internet. The President’s announcement was game-changing; the once-impossible prospect that the FCC would invoke full Title II reclassification became plausible, perhaps even likely. Politicians rallied behind the President’s plan in droves, and many of the largest tech companies in the country vocally supported the President’s call for full Title II. Even conservatives, often assumed to be opposed to net neutrality, overwhelmingly supported real net neutrality.

But, despite the FCC’s apparent shift from weak net neutrality under 706 to full-fledged Title II reclassification, the net neutrality fight is not yet over. All indications from the FCC suggest that it will circulate its proposed rule this spring. Though most believe that the FCC will propose reclassification (and apply net neutrality principles to mobile broadband—an important protection omitted from the 2010 rules), there is no concrete proof that the FCC will follow the clear will of the people and the Internet economy to enact real net neutrality. While it is crucial that the FCC makes sure that its new rules are strong and sufficient to withstand the inevitable legal challenge from ISPs, we must continue to pressure the FCC to do what’s right and do it promptly, lest carriers use the delay to sap the FCC’s courage to stand up to ISP malfeasance and protect the open Internet.

And, even if the FCC reclassifies broadband in order to craft strong net neutrality rules, the debate will likely continue in the new Republican Congress, which has already signalled its opposition to meaningful net neutrality. Whether Republican opposition is genuine or a knee-jerk reaction to the President’s statements remains to be seen. In the next year, we will keep the pressure on policymakers, reminding them of how crucial net neutrality has been to the momentous growth of the Internet economy and how the millions of Americans who have benefitted from the Internet’s prosperity are fully engaged and ready to fight to preserve the neutral Internet they know and love.

BREAKING: White House on Net Neutrality: Supports Title II


Big news out of the White House this morning: President Obama released a statement —in the form of a custom landing page on —laying out in no uncertain terms a strong defense of the kind of real Net Neutrality that we and the startup community have been long asking for from the FCC.

The statement makes clear that the White House supports reclassification of the Internet under Title II:

"So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."

This isn't the first time the President has spoken in favor of an open Internet, but this is the first time he's publicly supported reclassification, which is the only way to ensure real Net Neutrality. Encouragingly, the statement also fully supports the extension of strong rules to mobile. (It's worth reading the full statement from the White House, which you can find here.)

The following can be attributed to Julie Samuels, Executive Director of Engine:

The White House's action shows that it has listened to nearly 4 million Americans who have made their voices heard in this important public debate and heard the concerns of countless startups who have made clear that only reclassification supports a level playing field where everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Which, of course, is the promise of the Internet.

We applaud President Obama's leadership on this issue and we look forward to working with the White House to ensure the FCC follows the President's lead. To be certain, the fight for an open Internet is not over. But this morning we've taken an important step that puts us one step closer to real Net Neutrality. We hope is a signal of things to come.

Engine's Response to FCC's Reported Net Neutrality Plan


After many months of public debate, the FCC appears close to deciding on new net neutrality rules to replace those vacated earlier this year. Though the issue has to date been framed as a binary choice between the Chairman’s original proposal featuring toothless rules grounded in the Commission’s authority to encourage the deployment of broadband under section 706 of the Telecommunications Act and strong net neutrality regulations based on a full reclassification of broadband as a common carrier service, recent reports suggest that the FCC is settling on what many think of as a so-called hybrid solution.

According to the Wall Street Journal (sub req’d), the FCC is leaning towards adopting a framework that treats all Internet communications as the product of two separate and distinct relationships: 1) a relationship between an end user and an Internet service provider (ISP); and 2) a relationship between an edge provider (i.e. an Internet content provider like Netflix or Amazon) and an ISP. These separate relationships would get different regulatory treatment, but in theory, the plan could support non-discrimination rules that protect both sides of the communication.

The biggest problem with the plan outlined in the Wall Street Journal article is not the authority the FCC may invoke to justify the rules it wants to create (more on that below), but rather the proposed rules themselves. According to the article, the Commission will not ban paid prioritization but will instead allow priority deals so long as they are offered equally to all comers.

In this sense, the FCC’s proposed plan as reported in the Journal is an abandonment of net neutrality principles and will put startups at an enormous economic disadvantage. Enacting net neutrality rules is a two step process—first creating a workable framework for agency authority and then using that authority to create meaningful rules—and the FCC’s proposed plan appears to fail miserably at this second step.

Now for the really wonky part: Under a so-called hybrid proposal, the FCC would regulate these two separate relationships—ISP/end user and ISP/edge provider—differently. The relationship between an ISP and end user will keep its current classification under rules that have been in place since 2002, while the FCC will recognize a new relationship between an ISP and edge provider and classify it as a common carrier service, meaning that the FCC could then impose strong net neutrality rules on ISP/edge provider activities, such as a ban on ISPs charging edge providers for access to Internet fast lanes. According to proponents of hybrid rules, because every Internet transaction necessarily involves an interaction between an ISP and an edge provider, regulating only the ISP/edge provider relationship under Title II is more or less the same as regulating all broadband under Title II.

If this all sounds hopelessly convoluted, that’s because in many ways it is. The legal approach that the FCC is considering is novel, untested, and conceptually complicated. The plan carries significant legal risk and could end up getting thrown out in court.

But, putting aside for a moment concerns about the legal viability of hybrid approaches, it’s important to recognize how far we’ve come in getting the FCC to this point. Hybrid rules are, after all, grounded in Title II and would likely give the FCC authority to block paid prioritization arrangements. Though full Title II reclassification would be a far easier and simpler way to preserve an open Internet, hybrid rules could offer functionally similar protections.

Any net neutrality rules absolutely must prevent ISPs from extracting rents from edge providers and creating Internet slow lanes. While we’re encouraged that the FCC is moving in the right direction in considering rules grounded in Title II authority, the FCC’s consideration of actions that do not include banning paid prioritization deals renders its move towards Title II meaningless. Whether the FCC opts for full reclassification or a hybrid approach, it must use its authority to establish rules that protect startups and consumers or its efforts will have been in vain.

President Obama Reiterates Support for Strong Net Neutrality


Yesterday, President Barack Obama unequivocally stated his support for real net neutrality, putting to rest any doubts about where he stands on the issue, emphatically opposing any rules that would allow ISPs to enter into paid prioritization agreements and create fast and slow lanes on the Internet:

"I know that one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet: that is something I’m opposed to," Obama said.

The President’s latest comments come as the FCC begins the process of sorting through the 3.7 million comments filed in response to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules to replace the Commission’s Open Internet Order that was vacated by a court ruling in January. President Obama’s position is consistent with the vast majority of those commenters, over 99% of whom want the FCC to institute strong net neutrality rules.

This is not the first time the President has publicly supported net neutrality. As recently as this summer, he trumpeted the importance of an open Internet. Yet the President’s strong words yesterday left no room for doubt: it is clear the Administration supports Title II reclassification.

Which is why, in opposing Internet regulations that would permit companies to pay ISPs for priority access, President Obama voiced his opposition to the FCC Chairman’s proposed net neutrality rules. Under the Chairman’s proposal, the FCC would permit any paid prioritization deals that were “commercially reasonable.” While it is entirely unclear what “commercially reasonable” paid prioritization deals would entail (one of many major problems with the proposal), the Court of Appeals that vacated the FCC’s prior rules made clear that, unless the FCC reclassifies broadband under Title II, any new rules will have to permit paid prioritization. If, as the President said, he wishes the FCC to refrain from promulgating rules “creating two or three or four tiers of Internet,” the FCC must act in accordance with the overwhelming tide of public opinion and reclassify broadband as a common carrier service under TItle II. Having the President reiterate his strong commitment to net neutrality rules should remind the FCC of the importance of its decision and the widespread desire for meaningful rules preventing ISP discrimination.

Speak Up—or Slow Down: Why We Need A Day of Action for Net Neutrality

Internet users, advocates, and major tech companies will come together next week to make their voices heard: the time for real net neutrality is now. A long-awaited decision from the FCC on the future of net neutrality is imminent, and we’re excited to see companies that depend on an open Internet rallying together to let the FCC know once and for all that an Internet with fast lanes and slow lanes is unacceptable.


On September 10, major Internet companies—including Automattic, Cheezburger, Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly, Kickstarter, Meetup, Mozilla, Namecheap, Reddit, and Vimeo—will join Engine and other tech advocacy organizations for a Day of Action that will give a glimpse at what the Internet might look like if the FCC’s proposed rules go into effect, and net neutrality as we know it is left by the wayside. Under the FCC’s proposal, Internet providers will be free to charge for access to special Internet “fast lanes,” leaving startups and others unable to pay these new tolls in slow lanes. In such a world, startups that can’t pay for fast lane access could see their sites slow down, their traffic vanish, and their funding dry up, harming the Internet and the economy.


For the Internet Slowdown on September 10, many participating companies will install widgets on their sites displaying a revolving icon (a common signal of slowly loading content) to symbolize how the Internet would function in a world without net neutrality. Others, including Engine, will direct their users to call or email policymakers. With over one million public comments already filed with the FCC, much has been written about why the FCC’s proposed rules would damage the Internet, but the FCC needs to see firsthand how Internet fast lanes would devastate startups.

To help make sure the FCC gets the message, join Engine and companies like Automattic, Cheezburger, Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly, Kickstarter, Meetup, Mozilla, Namecheap, Reddit, and Vimeo on September 10 to show why real net neutrality rules are necessary to the future of an open Internet. For more information on the Day of Action and to learn about other ways to get involved, visit Battle for the Net or email

Engine's Response to Today's FCC Hearing on Net Neutrality Economics


We at Engine watched with interest as the FCC held a hearing today on economic questions related to its proposed net neutrality rules, focusing on “incentives to provide high quality open Internet access service and the relevance of market power.” Distressingly, though the hearing tackled many important questions about the economic incentives new rules would affect, relatively little time was spent addressing the immense negative impact on investment in startups that would follow from an abandonment of strong net neutrality rules. Too many witnesses—with Professor Nicholas Economides of NYU and Professor Jonathan Baker of American University as notable exceptions—failed to grasp the chilling effect on innovation that the paid prioritization model would cause.

Contrary to Hal Singer from the Progressive Policy Institute’s stunning claim at the hearing that allowing paid prioritization schemes would have no negative impact on companies that could not afford to pay for priority access unless ISPs actively degraded all non-prioritized traffic in absolute terms, paid prioritization unquestionably harms startups. Even with a so-called “baseline” service requirement, startups will be disadvantaged if their Internet speeds drop relative to established companies. Myriad studies show that consumers respond to even the most minute changes in website speeds. Millisecond differences in loading times can be a huge detriment to a startup’s growing business.

Simply put, allowing paid prioritization would greatly increase the cost of application development. In turn, higher costs would discourage entrepreneurs from starting risky companies and dissuade investors from putting money into startups that operate in such an imbalanced marketplace where wealthier incumbents pay for priority access.

The threat to innovation isn’t hypothetical. More than 100 of the world’s most prominent venture capitalists explicitly said in a letter to the FCC that they would be less likely to invest in startups that compete in established markets if the FCC permitted paid prioritization. If the FCC fails to understand that allowing ISPs to create and profit from Internet slow lanes will necessarily disincentivize investment in the next wave of startups, it will be putting the future of these companies and the Internet economy in grave danger.


It's Time to Talk Net Neutrality for Mobile


Last week, two of the FCC’s five commissioners came to Sacramento for a public hearing on the future of net neutrality regulation. While most of the debate regarding the FCC’s proposed rules issued earlier this year centered on how and if the Commission should implement net neutrality rules, the Sacramento hearing—organized by California Congresswoman Doris Matsui, a vocal proponent of net neutrality rules—took a step back from arguments over Title II vs. Section 706 (the main legal debate surrounding net neutrality) to think about the broader policy goals that the FCC should focus on in deciding on rules to replace the now-vacated Open Internet Order, regardless of what regulatory mechanism they decide to use.

We praise Rep. Matsui and the commissioners who joined her. Considering how important net neutrality is to citizens and businesses throughout the country, it’s necessary that policymakers tasked with charting a path for the future of the open Internet take the time to discuss these issues with people outside of the Beltway who will be impacted by the FCC’s decision.

In her opening remarks, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addressed a key net neutrality issue—one that has received short shrift in the debate thus far: the need for net neutrality regulations that apply to wireless Internet service. Under the 2010 Open Internet Order that was vacated in January by the D.C. Circuit Court, the FCC’s rules against ISP blocking and discrimination applied only to wired Internet service, leaving wireless Internet service outside the scope of the rules. While, as Commissioner Clyburn correctly noted, non-neutral wireless broadband presents significant problems for low-income Americans and communities of color (many of whom rely exclusively on wireless broadband for access to the Internet), the lack of any net neutrality rules impacting wireless threatens every community of Internet users, especially the startup community, much of which heavily relies on wireless to connect to new customers and users.

In 2010, when the FCC issued its Open Internet Order, the FCC decided not to apply to wireless carriers the full anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules it created to regulate wired broadband. The FCC justified this action on the grounds that the mobile broadband industry was still rather young in 2010; there was more competition amongst mobile carriers than their wireline counterparts; and operational constraints on mobile networks necessitated a more lenient notion of “reasonable network management” practices. These arguments were weak in 2010, and as the mobile broadband marketplace has changed, the FCC’s logic for exempting mobile from its net neutrality rules makes even less sense today.

As Commissioner Clyburn noted, the mobile broadband market has grown significantly in recent years, with LTE deployed to more than 120 million subscribers today, up from just 200,000 when the Commission issued its 2010 order. Not surprisingly, this increased mobile access has spurred a tremendous boom in the mobile application market. The global market for mobile apps and advertising was worth $38 billion in 2013, up from about $6.8 billion in 2010.

Some may point to these encouraging figures and conclude that there is no need for net neutrality rules in the mobile space. But, part of the reason the application market has boomed so much is because mobile ISPs have not yet engaged in widespread discriminatory activity—a norm that is beginning to change. Recently, mobile carriers have been entering into deals with some edge providers whereby use of these edge providers’ services does not count against a consumer’s data caps. While this may look like a great deal to consumers who are finding themselves being pushed into capped data plans, it will have the same crippling effect on startups that the creation of fast and slow lanes on the Internet would. Upstart companies will find it difficult or impossible to compete with large incumbent applications that consumers can use without incurring data charges, discouraging entrepreneurs from entering the market and investors from funding new application startups. Consumers may initially like having low cost access to popular apps, but consumer popularity alone isn’t synonymous with sound policy. Consumers also probably like the low prices a monopolist can charge to undercut new entrants and stave off competition, but permitting monopolistic behavior will ultimately ruin markets and consumer choice, threatening—as President Obama said—“the next Google and the next Facebook.”

Whether the FCC goes forward with its currently proposed ill-advised “net neutrality” regulations or uses Title II to enact meaningful non-discrimination rules, it must apply such rules equally to wired and wireless service. Failure to enact rules governing mobile broadband carrier discrimination—including zero-rating schemes—will stifle the booming market for mobile applications and allow mobile carriers to serve as gatekeepers for the millions of Americans who rely on wireless Internet access.


Startups Head to Washington to Petition for Net Neutrality


After a week that saw a nationwide day of action prompt more than 300,000 phone calls to Congress regarding net neutrality and more than 3 million comments filed with the FCC in response to the Chairman’s problematic net neutrality rules, startups from around the country came to Washington to make the case for meaningful net neutrality rules in person. With all the attention paid to net neutrality in recent days, we had to make sure that voices from the startup community—including and especially the small businesses who need an open Internet—were being heard in the debate. Representatives from Etsy, Imgur, Meetup, Kickstarter, General Assembly, Dwolla, Vimeo, and spent the day on September 17 meeting with key lawmakers and officials, explaining to policymakers why an open Internet is so important to their businesses and why the FCC needs to protect the innovative landscape of the Internet by enacting real net neutrality rules.

The startups began the day with a meeting at the White House, discussing their concerns about the Chairman’s proposed rules with key members of the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, including an appearance from newly-named CTO Megan Smith and Deputy CTO Alex Macgillivray.


While the President has already publicly expressed support for net neutrality rules that prevent ISPs from creating fast and slow lanes, the startups made clear to the White House that such rules are only possible through Title II reclassification. Having the President publicly support strong net neutrality rules earlier this summer was an encouraging development, and we are hopeful that the President will continue to pressure the FCC to make the correct decision on Title II reclassification.

The startups next made their way to the Capitol, where they participated in a press conference with Sen. Ed Markey—one of the most prominent and longstanding supporters of Title II reclassification—to further educate the public on the importance of the FCC’s decision. Sen. Markey was joined by Kickstarter’s Michal Rosenn, Dwolla’s Jordan Lampe, and Vimeo’s Michael Chea, each of whom eloquently made the case for Title II reclassification as the only way to preserve an open Internet for future innovators. The afternoon was spent in meetings with key members of Congress and staff, including representatives from both parties’ telecom subcommittees, net neutrality supporters like Sen. Markey and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with members like Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Joe Crowley.

The eventful day was capped with a meeting with Leader Pelosi, who—in between coordinating her delegation’s voting on significant foreign policy issues—sat down with us to discuss her strong support of net neutrality. Her recent letter in support of Title II reclassification showed her willingness to stand up to the powerful cable company lobby and do the right thing to keep the Internet open and competitive for startups in her district and throughout the country.

We are incredibly grateful to the participating startups for taking the time out of running their businesses to let Washington know that, despite not having an army of lobbyists constantly campaigning on their behalf like the ISPs, startups throughout the country are committed to doing what it takes to ensure the FCC enacts meaningful net neutrality rules.  


Net Neutrality Reply Comments: Startups Unified in Support of Title II


With the reply comment period on the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules closed as of last Monday and over 3 million comments filed with the FCC, it has become clear that protecting an open Internet is a massively important issue for the public at large. Just as citizens everywhere expressed unified support for Title II reclassification, startups from around the country made their voices heard this past week, calling on the FCC to pass real net neutrality rules.

On Monday, Engine filed reply comments with the FCC highlighting how the startup community has been clear and consistent in their demand that the FCC reclassify broadband as a common carrier service to protect the future of the open Internet. Startups of all sizes, from all parts of the country, and in all sectors understand that rules that allow ISPs to charge new access fees to Internet companies for preferential speeds and the ability to reach ISP customers will disrupt the essential character of the Internet and drastically curtail the innovation and economic growth the Internet has provided.

In their own comments with the FCC, larger companies like Tumblr, Kickstarter, and Etsy shared the same concerns as smaller startups like Lendup,, and General Assembly, noting that the Chairman’s proposal would facilitate the creation of fast and slow lanes that would diminish investment in future startups, drive fledgling companies out of business, and make it impossible for companies being discriminated against to challenge improper ISP practices.

As the FCC reviews the millions of comments on its proposed rules, it’s crucial that the Commission understands that the startup community is aligned in its support of strong net neutrality rules. Startups throughout the country have demanded the FCC reclassify broadband as a Title II service; it’s time for the FCC to take their concerns to heart.

A Free and Open Internet Needs Some Regulation: Why Even Free Market Advocates Should Agree


We’ve heard a lot of good arguments by now in favor of net neutrality, including those from the 40,000 unique websites who participated in last week’s Internet Slowdown day, the millions of people who have filed comments with the FCC, comedian John Oliver on his show, “Last Week Tonight,” and members of Congress like Senator Angus King, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Leader Nancy Pelosi. By the deadline this Monday, the FCC had received a record 3 million public comments. And we’re hoping they’re taking these calls to protect the free and open Internet seriously.

Of course, those opposed to the FCC implementing rules to protect the Internet from discrimination have their own arguments. And these naysayers include not only the the obvious ISPs, but also many groups who claim that Title II option amounts to “dangerous” regulation.

But, as we’ve said before, they have it all wrong, at least from a free market perspective.

We caught wind of a remarkably well-argued and well-researched piece by blogger and software developer James J. Heaney. He makes a free-market defense of net neutrality, which indeed requires the“R” word—regulation. While regulation can occasionally be heavy-handed and overbroad, regulating ISPs under Title II doesn’t necessarily implicate these concerns. So as complicated as the laws surrounding net neutrality are, it may come as no surprise that the assumption that net neutrality guaranteed under Title II is in opposition to free market principles doesn’t quite add up.

If you have the time (and an interest in a short lesson on the invisible hand), we recommend reading the post for yourself, but in short, Heaney explains why an open Internet that operates within our notions of a free market should be protected by the FCC from monopoly takeover—under Title II.

He points out that nearly every believer in the free market system understands the importance of government’s role in reigning in monopolies, the mega-companies that stifle any and all competitors. And whether they’ve meant to or not, the ISPs we depend on every day have become natural monopolies. This gives them an unfair amount of power over consumers, not to mention every startup in the nation in need of an Internet connection (which we’re pretty sure is every startup).

Reclassifying ISPs under Title II as common carriers would make the Verizons and Comcasts subject to some government regulation, but what free marketers and any entrepreneur trying to create the next technological sensation should recognize is that such regulation would reduce the further monopolization of the Internet and, in fact, keep the marketplace open.

The FCC has broad flexibility to implement only the Title II regulations that make sense in the context of the broadband market. And applying Title II with sensible forbearance will actually give the FCC less discretion to regulate at its whims than what it could do under the rules the Commissioner proposed this spring. 

Startups seeking cost-effective ways to store data, fast channels to reach new customers, and open access to tools that will help them build their businesses deserve to operate in an environment protected from favoritism and the exploitation of power, a power that would allow ISPs to create fast lanes and arbitrarily raise prices.

We enjoyed Heaney’s important take on the issue, but whatever your ideology or however strong your feelings about the free market, supporting the Title II option, and with that, some regulation, is a necessity for the Internet—and our economy—to continue as we know it.

Make the Call for Net Neutrality


As you’ve likely heard, the Internet Slowdown, an Internet-wide Day of Action in support of net neutrality, begins tomorrow. Companies including Kickstarter, Netflix, Mozilla, Etsy, and Foursquare will have banners on their sites calling attention to the devastating Internet slowdown that will happen if net neutrality isn’t protected.

Support for real net neutrality rules is gaining momentum, with major political leaders like Nancy Pelosi joining millions of citizens in demanding that the FCC reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service. But, if we have any hope of protecting an open Internet, policymakers need to hear from startups about how important net neutrality is to their businesses. Net neutrality is more than a free speech issue—it’s also an economic issue. Contrary to cable company assertions, net neutrality has been the norm on the Internet for most of its existence, and it’s because of this openness that the Internet has been such a hotbed of economic innovation.

Without net neutrality, the next Google or Facebook may be throttled out of existence. We need you to take action to make sure the Internet is open for the next wave of innovators. Join us tomorrow by making a phone call to your senators asking that they encourage the FCC to reclassify broadband to protect net neutrality. Or, help spread the word by tweeting about the Day of Action and the need for an open Internet.

We hope you’re all planning to join! If you’d like more information, shoot me an email at

Speak Up—or Slow Down: Why We Need A Day of Action for Net Neutrality


Internet users, advocates, and major tech companies will come together next week to make their voices heard: the time for real net neutrality is now. A long-awaited decision from the FCC on the future of net neutrality is imminent, and we’re excited to see companies that depend on an open Internet rallying together to let the FCC know once and for all that an Internet with fast lanes and slow lanes is unacceptable.

On September 10, major Internet companies—including Automattic, Cheezburger, Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly, Kickstarter, Meetup, Mozilla, Namecheap, Reddit, and Vimeo—will join Engine and other tech advocacy organizations for a Day of Action that will give a glimpse at what the Internet might look like if the FCC’s proposed rules go into effect, and net neutrality as we know it is left by the wayside. Under the FCC’s proposal, Internet providers will be free to charge for access to special Internet “fast lanes,” leaving startups and others unable to pay these new tolls in slow lanes. In such a world, startups that can’t pay for fast lane access could see their sites slow down, their traffic vanish, and their funding dry up, harming the Internet and the economy.

For the Internet Slowdown on September 10, many participating companies will install widgets on their sites displaying a revolving icon (a common signal of slowly loading content) to symbolize how the Internet would function in a world without net neutrality. Others, including Engine, will direct their users to call or email policymakers. With over one million public comments already filed with the FCC, much has been written about why the FCC’s proposed rules would damage the Internet, but the FCC needs to see firsthand how Internet fast lanes would devastate startups.

To help make sure the FCC gets the message, join Engine and companies like Automattic, Cheezburger, Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, General Assembly, Kickstarter, Meetup, Mozilla, Namecheap, Reddit, and Vimeo on September 10 to show why real net neutrality rules are necessary to the future of an open Internet. For more information on the Day of Action and to learn about other ways to get involved, visit Battle for the Net or email


Thanks, President Obama: President Speaks Out Against Slow Lanes


The latest politician to add his voice to the growing coalition supporting Title II reclassification and strong net neutrality rules is none other than U.S. President Barack Obama. The President, in remarks given at this week’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, made a strong statement in favor of real net neutrality, saying, “I personally, the position of my administration, as well as a lot of the companies here, is that you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users. You want to leave it open so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”

Here’s the thing: the only way to ensure there is no “differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to different users” is to reclassify the Internet as a “common carrier” under Title II. The crux of the current debate surrounds under what legal authority the FCC can protect an open Internet, one without paid prioritization and fast lanes. The FCC Chairman, in public statements, has signaled his intent to work under the current legal structure--called Section 706--but, simply, the law will not allow that.

The D.C. Appellate Court has made it abundantly clear that the FCC must reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service” under Title II if it wants to ban the type of behavior President Obama spoke out against.  According to that Court, the FCC’s prior rules preventing ISPs from discriminating against or blocking access to disfavored companies were “per se common carrier obligations,” and only services subject to Title II can be treated as common carriers. Quite simple, in fact.

Which is why the President’s statements are so important. It’s now clear that the President must support reclassification. And those comments came at a particularly important time. As you likely know, the FCC, and its Chairman, Tom Wheeler, are currently evaluating a number of proposals dedicated to protecting the Internet, and keeping it free for innovation.

In making his comments, President Obama joins with hundreds of our country’s leading startup companies, Fortune 500 corporations, technologists, advocacy organizations, Internet users and supporters across the world in calling for the Internet to be reclassified under Title II. We look forward to continuing our work with the Administration to protect and “leave open” the Internet to ensure that all startups, especially the “next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”

The Drumbeat Continues: More Startups Call for Title II Reclassification


Today, 10 more startup companies across the United States called on the FCC to reclassify the Internet and keep it free and open for innovation. While Congress has gone home for the August Recess, the process on Internet rulemaking continues at the FCC, where startup companies continue to make their voices heard. The companies, which represent a broad swath of growing businesses all across the country, once again focused on the only real choice available for Chairman Wheeler to preserve the ability for these companies to hatch, grow, and scale in the marketplace, and that is reclassification under Title II.

Take, for example, the story of San Francisco-based microfinance startup LendUp. Their story, according to co-founder Sasha Orloff in the filing, is only possible because the rules governing the Internet allowed for free and fair competition. As Orloff writes, “Competition within this industry is fierce and, if we were founded under the rules laid down in the Chairman’s proposal, our initial cost projections could have proven prohibitive. We would have needed to pay a substantial premium in order to ensure customers could find and access us within a crowded marketplace.” Instead, LendUp is now able to provide financial assistance to people in need, while also educating their customers about the positive benefits of responsible financial behavior, all because of technology they could build on an open Internet.

We get a bit of a global influence in this batch of comments as well, because despite Europe’s having recently fought -- and won -- its’ own battle for Net Neutrality, the FCC’s proposal could have deleterious effects on global companies doing business in the United States. Publitas, an Amsterdam-based company working to optimize and present digital content in the retail space, writes that not only would the company never have been gotten off the ground in the world envisioned by the current proposal, their future is under threat as well. U.S. influence on the Internet has global reach, and because of that, Publitas Founder and CEO Guillermo Sanchez warns that “[i]f the FCC had enacted policies which infringed upon net neutrality, the Netherlands might have enacted similar ones” which would have put the original idea under threat. But also, with a “data intensive” business like Publitas, “our business would be seriously hobbled if we were in a slow lane.”

The current proposal could also have negative influences on new marketplaces, writes Shapeways, a New York-based leading marketplace for 3D Printing images and blueprints. They are responsible for 18,000 Shapeways shops already, and with 3D Printing continuing its massive growth curve, the market they empower is continuing to foment further entrepreneurial gains in the economy on the whole. But that future is uncertain because of the proposal which Shapeways says, undermines “the great equalizer.” Everyone has the same access, anyone can float their own “crazy idea.” By creating two-tier access, you sacrifice this core tenet, throttle the spirit of freedom, and ultimately kill the power of wild innovation this nation is founded upon.” They lay out their proposed solution plainly, asking the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility, “which it is.”


These comments and more are available on our site, and we have again extracted multiple key quotes below. For more like this, sign up at and our work to reclassify the Internet continues over the course of the summer, we’ll keep you updated with all the news and views you need to help support a better proposal and a solution that keeps the Internet free and open for innovation.


We currently spend considerable resources ensuring that our users can quickly access the content that they need. They view high-resolution photos of restaurants, events, and people; as well as geolocation data to help with coordination. They find out what places around them are most popular and who is currently there. These tools help LGBT people stay connected and maintain a sense of community in this rapidly changing environment. As you can imagine, the amount of bandwidth that this takes up is exponentially related to our growth and success. Having to negotiate with ISPs for the same access that our competitors would enjoy is simply not an option at our stage as a startup, we neither have the time nor the money.

Badger Maps, Inc.

There are a lot of costs to starting a business, and investors and venture capitalists are only interested in funding certain types of businesses. An entrepreneur needs to pay peoples' salaries, pay for servers, buy software, pay for space to house workers, buy Ramen and peanut butter, etc. So by adding another cost — paying off Internet service providers, to keep them from putting a gun to companies’ heads — you will get less innovation in the American economy.


Beyond competition, core aspects of our business depend on Internet speed and efficiency. From underwriting to transaction processing, we rely on large amounts of data flowing quickly to meet customer needs and ensure accuracy and security. Speed also enables our value proposition as no customer is going to sit through a credit education video that takes too long to load. Again, with competition so intense and the alternative lenders so lacking our benefits, the consequences of a borrower abandoning us for a less compliant lender that could pay more for bandwidth are high. Furthermore, as investors evaluated the potential of our business, if these would-be risks had been a reality, I am confident conversations would have been different.

Linear Air

I am a serial networking entrepreneur and inventor.  I have four Internet patents, and prior to Linear Air, I spent a decade as the CTO of a networking company (Ipanema Technologies) whose product was designed to guarantee good performance across the Internet. That makes me, as it happens, one of the world’s foremost technical experts on Internet performance, the matter at the heart of this proposal, and I can state definitively that the only way to create a “fast lane” on the Internet is to slow everything else down. Anyone who claims differently is either mistaken, or lying.


We need strong network neutrality rules that keep the Internet as a level playing field. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler should not preside over the transformation of the Internet from a level playing field that has been the greatest engine of innovation and growth the world has ever seen to being a discriminatory, heavily tolled platform controlled by an largely uncompetitive ISP industry. The Chairman’s proposal would allow ISPs to create new barriers to innovation that would harm startups like ours—and all those who may benefit for our services. It harms consumer choice, entrepreneurship, and will kill jobs.


We need the protection of bright-line rules. We cannot make do with the FCC’s vague commercial reasonableness standard. We have no telecommunications lawyers on staff; big ISPs have hundreds at their disposal. We simply don’t have the resources to fight a legal battle on the basis of presumptions. We urge the FCC to enact bright-line rules which prohibit blocking, technical discrimination, paid prioritization, and access fees, applicable to both fixed and mobile connections, and to reclassify broadband providers under Title II of the Communications Act.


The FCC’s proposal will parch the Internet ecosystem, constricting our revenues. It will also force us to pay whatever we must to put ourselves in the fast lane, and to negotiate individual deals with multiple ISPs. That is time and money that we could have spent on hiring, innovation, and growth. We also face the threat of exclusive deals, hammered out between our competitors and ISPs, giving them and them alone the right to a fast lane. We could not afford to purchase such a right, which undoubtedly would be very expensive. If any of our competitors bought the exclusive right to a fast lane, we might have to go out of business.


Over the past twenty years, American innovators have created countless Internet-based applications, content offerings, and services that are used around the world. These innovations have created enormous value for Internet users, fueled economic growth, and made our Internet companies global leaders. This innovation happened in a world without discrimination. An open Internet has also been a platform for free speech and opportunity for billions of users. Shapeways would not have come to life without the Internet, and the FCC’s proposal threatens our future to provide an open platform for independent businesses to flourish, even those with an inventory of one product. The proposal will further harm competition by quelling innovation among small businesses in all sectors by creating financial barriers to entry.

Fred Trotter

The Digital Divide is getting narrower but steeper, there are fewer on the ‘wrong’ side but life is getting worse and worse for those few. Our country is betting on digital health interventions working to rescue our economy but this model relies on consistent connectivity between consumer grade doctor ISP connections and consumer grade patient ISP connections. If we allow for the creation of Internet “fast lanes” we will force at least some patients and doctors into the slow lane. This will deepen the Digital Divide and significantly damage the healthcare reform efforts that are designed to rescue our country’s economy.

Poll Everywhere

Many of the concerns we would have had at our founding remain problematic today. We still run on a tight budget, and we’re not sure whether we could afford to put ourselves in a fast lane. Even if we could, that would only mean diverting money away from hiring and growth.

Meanwhile, we are terrified by the threat of an exclusive deal, forged between ISPs and a giant producer of clickers. We certainly could not afford such a deal, which would come at a great cost. If that deal forced us to the slow lane, it would be hard for us to draw in new users. We might even lose our current ones, frustrated as they would be with our slow and patchy service.