Apple defends net neutrality in open letter to FCC

Apple has sent a letter to the US Federal Communications Commission(FCC) defending net neutrality and advocating for an open internet.

Apple's US VP for public policy, Cynthia Hogan, submitted the letter and outlined why Apple thinks the FCC should "retain strong, enforceable open internet protections" through a number of key policy principles.

Hogan argues that it should be down to consumer choice and said: "Broadband providers should not block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services."

She claimed this has been a principle of the FCC's approach for over a decade.

Hogan is also against paid fast lanes as they could favour the transmission of one provider's content or services over another, and noted they would end up "fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today".

"The result would be an internet with distorted competition where online providers are driven to reach deals with broadband providers or risk being stuck in the slow lane and losing customers due to lower quality service," she expalined, detailing how theinternet would change should net neutrality be abandoned.

Hogan said that, worst of all, broadband providers would pick "internet winners and losers" based on the providers priorities instead of quality of service.

Highlighting the benefits of net neutrality, Hogan also underlined that an open internet fosters innovation and investment: "...internet openness, investment, and innovation are mutually reinforcing - to the benefit of consumers, productivity, and overall economic growth."

Hogan finished her letter with: "...the internet is too important to consumers and too essential to innovation to be left unprotected and uncertain."

Yesterday it emerged that a US House Committee canceled a net neutrality hearing after companies that were invited to take part did not say they would attend. It was due to take place on 7 September but companies, such as Facebook or Verizon, did not give the committee any indication that they would go to the event.

Thousands of websites and tech firms came together on 12 July for a net neutrality protest where they simulated what it would be like for a user to access their websites. This meant pretending to charge more to access their services on the internet.

31/08/2017: US House Committee cancels net neutrality hearing

A US House Committee has canceled a net neutrality hearing after companies that were invited did not say they would attend.

The hearing was due to take place on 7 September in Washington and was organised by the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to Reuters.

The CEOs of companies such as Alphabet, Facebook, AT&T and Verizon were invited but did not confirm they would attend the event.

Zach Hunter, a spokesperson for committee chairman Greg Walden, said: "As negotiations progress on a permanent solution for net neutrality that ensures a free and open internet, the committee will postpone the original hearing in order to allow talks between stakeholders to continue."

Reuters claims that Republican lawmakers wanted CEOs from tech companies and internet providers to testify in public to try and raise support for the proposal. Other companies invited to the hearing include Netflix, Charter and Comcast.

The FCC, under Donald Trump, is trying to scrap net neutrality guidelines put in place in 2015. This could allow internet service providers to decide what customers can access on the internet depending on how much they pay. Republicans will consider a bill next month which may allow the FCC to put its proposal into effect.

Thousands of websites and tech firms came together on 12 July for a net neutrality protest. They simulated what it would be like for users to try and access their content if the FCC succeed, which meant pretending that users had to pay a charge to access their website.

Tech giants such as Amazon, Netflix and Mozilla have argued in the past that overturning net neutrality would result in customers having to pay more to access services on the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation claimed the proposal would give ISPs a "frightening" amount of control over a user's internet experience too.

07/06/2017:GitHub, Amazon and Mozilla plan to protest net neutrality changes

Some of the biggest technology companies in the world are set to protest against changes to net neutrality legislation proposed by US President Donald Trump's government.

Corporations including GitHub, Amazon, Mozilla, Vimeo, Kickstarter, Reddit and the Open Technology Institute are opposing Trump's plan to get rid of net neutrality guidelines put in place in 2015, which could mean internet service providers would be able to decide what customers see on the internet and what they don't, based upon how much their customers pay.

The tech giants claimed the move would result in a hike of the fees customers have to pay to access services and blocking websites they don't want you to see. They also claimed the move is against free speech, and urged advocates of web freedom to participate in an online protect on 12 July.

Led by Fight for the Future, Freepress Action Fund and Demand Progress, the online protest aims to persuadethe government and the companies pushing for the lifting of net neutrality guidelines to change their stances.

As part of the protest, all the companies involved will change their websites to show support for net neutrality, which could include serving different pages to show what they say may happen if Trump and the overhauled Federal Communications Commission get their way.

"The internet has given more people a voice than ever before, and we're not going to let the FCC take that power away from us," Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future told the Guardian. "Massive online mobilization got us the strong net neutrality protections that we have now, and we intend to fight tooth and nail to defend them."

26/05/2017:500,000 anti-net neutrality comments deemed fake

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received a complaint yesterday from a group of individuals who claim their names were used to create fake comments in support of scrapping net neutrality rules.

The FCC website has received over 2.7 million comments on its website so far in what was an attempt to understand public sentiment around net neutrality and the regulation of internet service providers. The rules, which were introduced under President Barack Obama following a massive campaign, are now being scrapped under the Trump administration.

However, it appears that many of the comments on the FCC's website could be fake spam created by supporters of the government's anti-net neutrality approach.

In a letter addressed to FCC chairman Ajit Pai yesterday, 14 individuals claim that their names and personal information were used to make comments, and have called upon the body to investigate the issue, which violates a US law about making false statements.

"We are disturbed by reports that indicate you have no plans to remove these fraudulent comments from the public docket," the letter stated. "Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto."

"While it may be convenient for you to ignore this, given that it was done in an attempt to support your position, it cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack."

It is thought that as many as 450,000 comments have been created fraudulently using the personal information of other individuals.

Joel Mullaney, a software engineer from Massachusetts, told the Guardian that he discovered a Reddit thread discussing the fraudulent use of names and postal addresses attacking net neutrality.

His own name was associated with this comment: "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation".

"It was pretty ridiculous," said Mullaney, speaking to the Guardian. "That's pretty much the exact opposite of what I think.

IT Pro has contacted the FCC for comment.

The group has called upon the FCC to notify the appropriate authorities and disclose any information it may have on who was responsible for posting the comments.

19/05/2017: The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to begin the process of dismantling the net neutrality laws that govern fair and free internet access.

The FCC's members voted two-to-one in favour of a review of the rules, which will aim to heavily loosen or abolish many of the protections established under Obama. One of the primary goals is removing the classification of ISPs as 'Title II' carriers, which means they cannot be as heavily regulated.

The first stage of the process is the filing of a 'Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' (NPRM), outlining the changes the FCC are seeking to make. The Commission will be accepting comments and feedback from the general public and stakeholders for three months, before composing a final order and then voting on its implementation.

Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai is a vocal and vociferous opponent of the current rules, arguing that they strangle innovation and deter companies from making infrastructure investments.

"For almost twenty years, the internet flourished under a light-touch regulatory approach. During this time, the internet underwent rapid, and unprecedented, growth," the NPRM stated. "The Commission's 2015 decision to subject ISPs to Title II utility-style regulations risks that innovation, serving ultimately to threaten the open internet it purported to preserve."

Although Pai and fellow Republican FCC member Michael O'Rielly voted in favour of the proposals, the Commission's third member, Democrat Mignon Clyburn, was fiercely opposed. He delivered a scathing rebuke of the plans, calling it "a hollow theory of trickle-down internet economics" that "contains ideological interpretive whiplash".

"If you unequivocally trust that your broadband provider will always put the public interest, over their self-interest or the interest of their stockholders, then the 'Destroying Internet Freedom' NPRM is for you."

Net neutrality rules, which govern whether or not broadband providers are allowed to charge more for certain traffic types than others, have frequently been hailed as essential for maintaining an open internet by digital rights activists.Many worry that if the rules are rescinded, cable providers will take advantage to promote their own apps and services, squeezing smaller rivals out of the market by charging them more to get their content to consumers.

For example, US ISPs Comcast and Time Warner both own stakes in video streaming service Hulu. Without the protection of net neutrality rules, they would be free to charge Netflix more to deliver its service to users, or to deliver it at a slower speed compared to Hulu, in an effort to force more people onto their own service.

This may appear like an issue that only affects the US, but it may have troubling implications for the rest of the world, encouraging heavier deregulation by other countries. It also raises worrying questions for anyone with a digital business serving US customers, as the new rules could adversely affect the provision of their services.

While Pai and other net neutrality opponents argue that the regulations harm infrastructure investment, a report this month from opposing advocacy group Free Press stated that by ISPs own admission, the Title II classification has had no measurable impact on their investments since it was introduced in 2015.

"Financial and marketplace evidence demonstrates that the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order is an absolute success, accomplishing its stated goal of preserving and promoting the onlineecosystem's 'virtuous cycle of investment'," the report said."ISP investments accelerated following the vote. Investments in the edge, including those by online video providers and edge computing firms, are up as well. More new US 'over-the-top' video services launched in the two years following the vote than in the seven years prior."

Zach Marzouk

Zach Marzouk is a former ITPro, CloudPro, and ChannelPro staff writer, covering topics like security, privacy, worker rights, and startups, primarily in the Asia Pacific and the US regions. Zach joined ITPro in 2017 where he was introduced to the world of B2B technology as a junior staff writer, before he returned to Argentina in 2018, working in communications and as a copywriter. In 2021, he made his way back to ITPro as a staff writer during the pandemic, before joining the world of freelance in 2022.