Liz McIntyre

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International open letter warns the US: Rolling back net neutrality rules could create “significant…

A growing network of international businesses and organizations are warning the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that a rollback of Title II net neutrality rules could create “significant social and economic harms.” Earlier this year, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans to roll back these rules that currently require US Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat all Internet traffic equally — even traffic that originates from overseas.

Businesses and organizations that operate from outside the US, including European Digital Rights (EDRi), Access Now, Startups for Net Neutrality and Dutch search engine StartPage.com are summing up their concerns over the rollback plans in new letter addressed to Pai and the US Congress.

Companies and organizations based outside the US are encouraged to sign onto the open letter ASAP.

While Pai has seemingly ignored over 20 million pro-net neutrality comments filed by his country’s own citizens, it hasn’t deterred StartPage.com CEO Robert Beens from weighing in.

“The Internet is a shared world marketplace and forum that calls for international cooperation and diplomacy,” said Beens. “The US should solicit input from all parties that could be affected. It’s simply the right thing to do, and we hope that Chairman Pai will give our concerns serious consideration.”

The group plans to deliver its letter to Pai in time for the September 26 FCC open meeting, which comes a day before a massive day of action on Capitol Hill.

If the US repeals net neutrality rules, signatories warn in the letter, it could harm or destroy global businesses and organizations by allowing US ISPs to decide what their US customers can see and do online while using their services, even discriminating against international traffic. ISPs would have the power to block sites and apps, and even force websites to pay expensive “prioritization” fees just to reach customers.

They have posted the following letter here:

Dear FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Members of Congress,

We are companies and organisations headquartered outside the United States of America, and we are concerned about how the rollback of US Title II net neutrality rules could negatively impact the world’s shared Internet ecosystem.

The Internet has been such a social and economic success because permissionless any-to-any communication is at its core. Net neutrality allows online business or any societal movement equal access to a global audience — undermining this principle would create significant social and economic harms.

Access to the entire Internet is not only vital to American business and society, it is essential to businesses and people outside the United States. We also depend on a strong competitive framework and legal foundation to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) cannot create barriers to commerce and free speech by discriminating against websites, services, and apps, or by imposing new fees that harm businesses and consumers.

The open Internet makes it possible for all of us to bring our best business ideas to the world without interference or seeking permission from any gatekeeper first. This is possible because the principle of net neutrality ensures that everyone, no matter where they are located, has unimpeded access to Internet opportunities.

The FCC’s longstanding commitment to protect the open Internet is a central reason why the Internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth both in the US and outside its borders. We are deeply concerned that the proposed regulatory changes to net neutrality will undermine free speech and competition on the Internet. Despite assurances to the contrary, the changes proposed by the FCC would remove the only existing legal foundation strong enough to ensure the United States will continue to honor the principle of net neutrality.

An FCC rollback of net neutrality provisions would grant US Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon new powers to control the Internet. Ultimately, these changes will allow US Internet access providers to demand payment from online services for the right to have privileged access to that provider’s customer base, creating a patchwork of new monopolies to replace the existing open market. This will fragment the market, destroy economies of scale, reduce incentives for innovation, undermine social movements and rip the soul out of the Internet.

We urge you to maintain strong net neutrality rules and focus on policies that encourage the deployment of new network infrastructure, and create greater choice and competition amongst Internet service providers.

Thank you for considering our views.

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