Silicon Valley kicks off fight on net neutrality

Net neutrality explained, once & for all
Net neutrality explained, once & for all

The tech industry is drawing a line in the sand on net neutrality.

The Internet Association, a trade group representing companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN), stressed the importance of defending current net neutrality rules in a meeting with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday.

"The internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online," the group said in the meeting, according to a filing with the FCC. "Existing net neutrality rules should be enforced and kept in tact."

The net neutrality rules, approved by the FCC in 2015, are intended to keep the Internet open and fair. The rules prevent Internet providers from playing favorites by deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.

This is the first face-to-face encounter between the tech association and the new FCC head. It comes on the heels of reports Pai met with the telecom industry to discuss changing how the rules are enforced, potentially weakening them.

The FCC declined to comment.

Related: RIP Internet privacy rules. Is net neutrality next?

Pai called the net neutrality rules a "mistake" in February and has begun chipping away at them. But the tech industry had mostly stayed quiet as it engaged in other pressing political battles with the Trump administration.

"Immigration, trade, the international economic order, cybersecurity, privacy, and lots more are in play. So we do need to prioritize somewhat," Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, another tech trade group, previously told CNNTech.

That's beginning to change.

Fight for the Future, a digital rights group that helped organize protests for net neutrality before its approval, is now trying to help net neutrality supporters secure meetings with their local representatives in Congress.

"The FCC just held a closed door meeting with lobbyists from the Big Cable, and now they're moving fast to slash net neutrality and open the flood gates for fast lanes and slow lanes, throttling, and censorship," the group wrote in its call to action.

Even before the latest FCC rumor, some net neutrality advocates were on edge thanks to the Republican-led Congress voting to repeal Internet privacy protections.

"Net neutrality is on the chopping block," Democratic Senator Edward Markey said shortly before the privacy vote. "And this is their first step to ensure the few and the powerful control the Internet."

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