Web titans rail against Net Neutrality rules as FCC argues

Voices in the net neutrality debate are getting raised, with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and more penning a vocal letter to the FCC demanding equal access to the internet, while the Commission itself argues internally over the issue. The letter, in which big players in web content, internet backbone, and services slam the concept of "bargains" between individual companies and ISPs, calls for "an open internet ... for free speech and opportunity."

"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination," the letter continues, "the Commission's rules should protect users and internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and pair prioritization, and should make the market for internet services more transparent."

Reddit, Dropbox, Ebay, tumblr, and Twitter are also among those signing the letter. Level 3 – which earlier slammed five US ISPs for effectively holding the internet to ransom, by refusing to upgrade infrastructure unless they were paid by content providers – is also included.

The companies involved have taken issue with the amended net neutrality plans the FCC is reportedly considering. They would allow ISPs to cut deals with certain sites and services on "commercially reasonable" terms, in return for priority or guaranteed access.

That same sort of deal has seen Netflix agree to pay Verizon as well as Comcast for the bandwidth it needs to deliver stable video streaming to its subscribers. It was a grudging concession on Netflix's part, however.

Within the FCC, meanwhile, commissioners are divided on how the issue of net neutrality should be handled. Two of the Democratic members have requested a delay in the vote, based in no small part on the surge of public interest – and contact with the Commission – the proposals have spurred.

"Tens of thousands of e-mails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet," Jessica Rosenworcel described in a speech. "We need to respect that input and we need time for that input."

On the other hand, Republican commissioner Michael O'Rielly has argued that the FCC should leave the issue to the free market to settle. Currently, the agency is planning to vote on May 15th as to whether it will accept the new rules.