Expect to see a lot of net neutrality activity this week as we approach the September 15 deadline for comments on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s open Internet proposal — which stops short of banning cable and phone companies from favoring some content providers. Tomorrow several major tech companies including Netflix, Kickstarter, Mozilla, and reddit as well as activist groups will include slow-moving icons on their sites to illustrate what they believe could happen if the FCC doesn’t impose tougher regulations. This “could become one of the biggest online protests of all time (step aside, SOPA),” says the Free Press Action Fund, a major supporter of the event. The groups plan lunchtime rallies in New York, Philadelphia (where Comcast is headquartered) and other cities September 15.
Today they also called on the FCC to hold at least four hearings on the subject, outside of Washington, DC. “An often invisible agency is about to decide the future of our news and information ecosystem,” says former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now an adviser to Common Cause. “It must not make an invisible decision. The Commission hears more than enough from inside-the-Beltway lobbyists. Now it needs to hear from the people who will have to live with its decisions.”
Speaking of lobbyists, Wheeler today told CTIA — the wireless industry trade group that he once ran — that he might want to change or end the policy of giving mobile providers more flexibility to manage their networks than wired ones have. There’ve been “significant changes in the mobile marketplace since 2010” when the FCC adopted net neutrality rules that a federal court remanded in January. The world depends much more on mobile devices than it did then. He’s also concerned that some mobile providers tell customers that they have unlimited data — but throttle speeds when they use too much. “Our Open Internet proceeding will look closely at both the question of what is ‘reasonable’ and the related subject of how network management practices can be transparent to consumers and edge providers.”