Just over two years ago, the Internet (that's big 'I' Internet) launched a coordinated campaign against Congressman Lamar Smith's Stop Online Piracy Act. The bill, it was feared, would kill the open, free Internet as we know it and stifle innovative new technologies and businesses by forcing ISPs to block domains that hosted potentially copyright infringing material. On January 18th, 2012, Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, Craigslist, and thousands more, blacked out their homepages in protest of SOPA, a move that eventually spurred lawmakers to abandon the change. According to the Wall St. Journal, these heavyweights are considering a reunion tour.
Among the largest Internet companies, most are staying quiet until the FCC briefs them on the proposal Friday and are referring questions to the Internet Association, a two-year-old trade group representing Google,Inc., Yahoo Inc., Netflix Inc. and others. But officials inside the companies who follow government policy say they are considering mobilizing a grass-roots campaign to rally public opinion around the idea that the Internet's pipes should be equally open for all.
Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a plan that would allow ISPs to charge companies (like, say Netfix or Google) a premium in order to get their traffic to users faster. Critics say this will essentially create a two-tiered internet, and put an end to the free net as we know it. Here's Siva Vaidhyanathan on last week's On the Media:
The little 'i' internet has been freaking out about this proposal since it was announced, and grass roots action plans have already been considered. But it was these big tech companies making an appeal to the non-net centric that made the critical difference last time around. If Google and its cohorts get involved again, that could mean a much more difficult battle for the FCC.
Of course, this time around, the FCC doesn't need to get a law passed. It just has to change its Open Internet rules, which it has a mandate to do. So it's unclear whether even the loudest protesting will make any difference.