Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 12, 2013.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said on Friday that he too cares about an "open Internet" — the FCC's lingo for net neutrality — in a letter that he sent to various tech companies.
Wheeler wrote the letter, obtained by Mashable, responding to a previous missive sent by several tech companies on Thursday, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix. In the letter, the companies denounced the FCC's proposal to allow online content providers to negotiate for preferential treatment from Internet service providers, a measure that critics see as a way to create Internet "fast lanes" that would effectively end net neutrality.
In the letter Wheeler promises that he agrees with the tech companies and that he is committed to keeping the Internet open.
"The Open Internet must be preserved and protected," he wrote in the letter, embedded below. "My commitment to protect and preserve the Open Internet remains steadfast."
The FCC announced the controversial new rule proposal in late April, when it circulated the draft of the new rules among FCC commissioners. The new proposal, which the commission will vote on during its monthly open meeting in Washington, D.C, on May 15, has created a major backlash from activists, tech companies, investors, and even some FCC commissioners themselves.
Wheeler directly addressed the tech companies' plea not discriminate between traffic in the letter.
"I will not allow some companies to force Internet users into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service," he wrote, adding that this commitment comes from personal experience. "As an entrepreneur who started companies that offered new programs and services to cable companies, I was subject to being blocked from access to cable networks. It is an experience that made me especially wary of the power of closed networks to innovate on their own agenda to the detriment of small entrepreneurs."
Alan Davidson, the Vice President for Technology Policy and Strategy at the New America Foundation, who helped coordinate the tech companies' letter to the FCC, and who received Wheeler's letter, reacted with cautious optimism.
"We’re glad to see the chairman reiterating his support for net neutrality," he said in a statement to Mashable. "The key question is what this means for the open Internet proceeding. We look forward to seeing progress towards real protections for consumers against discrimination on their Internet connections."
Wheeler concluded by quoting a statement from the tech companies' letter.
Such rules are essential for the future of the Internet. This commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.
"I could not agree with you more and that's what we intend to do," he wrote.
Wheeler's full letter is embedded below.
FCC Tom Wheeler Letter to Tech Companies on Net Neutrality