Small businesses and entrepreneurs seem to have some unlikely allies in the debate over whether the Internet should remain open and equally accessible to all: Amazon and Google.
Twenty big companies—including Netflix, Amazon, Google, Twitter and Microsoft—sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission yesterday asking it not to enact rules that would allow cable and phone providers to give faster and better Internet connections to companies willing to pay for it. Allowing for preferential treatment could hurt American innovation and stifle competition, the letter suggests.
“The Commission’s long-standing commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open Internet are a central reason why the Internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth,” the letter states. “According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.”
Some of the companies that signed the letter of course have their own reasons for wanting to keep the Internet open. Netflix recently paid Comcast and Verizon to improve the quality of its video-streaming service after many customers complained of slow or disrupted streaming.
The proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner has also created fears over what effects it would have on Internet competitiveness. Comcast would effectively control one-third of all U.S. broadband connections—giving it the power to create a broad pay-to-play environment.
Net neutrality is an important issue for small companies and startups looking to compete online. Experts say that if the FCC allows phone and Internet providers to essentially charge a “toll” for better access, it could make it harder for small players to compete. How would a startup video-streaming service, for example, compete against companies like Netflix that have the money to pay for better service?
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