Web cos send Cyber Monday letter urging chairman Pai to leave the rules alone

The pushback against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) plan to scrap net neutrality stepped up a gear late on Monday, when Airbnb, Reddit and Twitter joined nearly 250 companies to send a letter urging the U.S. telco watchdog to keep the current rules in place.

"Without these rules, Internet service providers will be able to favour certain Websites and e-businesses…over others by putting the ones that can pay in fast lanes and slowing down or even blocking others. Businesses may have to pay a toll just to reach customers," the companies warned.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai last week circulated a draft order among his fellow commissioners that proposes to repeal the Open Internet Order – the piece of legislation preventing broadband providers from actively discriminating against various types of Web traffic – replacing it with a requirement for ISPs merely to inform customers of their traffic management practices.

This was welcome news for telcos, which claim that the current rules are onerous and have hindered network investment.

The Commission will vote on Pai’s proposal on 14 December.

"An Internet without net neutrality protections would be the opposite of the open market, with a few powerful cable and phone companies picking winners and losers instead of consumers," the group of Web companies claimed on Monday.

As well as Airbnb, Reddit and Twitter, the group also includes some big names like Tumblr, connected speaker maker Sonos, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s payment tech company Square. However, the vast majority are lesser-known Web players.

Companies of this size in particular would be harmed since only those with deep enough pockets could afford to have an ISP prioritise their traffic, the group said.

"The current rules provide the protections necessary to protect net neutrality and ensure the Internet remains a free and open marketplace that encourages innovation and supports robust competition," they said.

To amplify their collective message, the companies chose deliberately to send the letter on Cyber Monday, the annual marketing gimmick that encourages people to shop online.

"Last year, Americans spent almost $3.5 billion online on Cyber Monday, making it the largest online sales day in history. Each year this number increases, with last year’s sales growing more than 10%," the signatories said. "Today, on the busiest online shopping day of the year, we, the undersigned businesses and trade associations, urge the FCC to maintain the current net neutrality rules."