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Tech Entrepreneurs Oppose FCC Chairman's Plan To Ditch Net Neutrality

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Technological innovation could be a thing of the past ... or at least that's the worry of many small technology companies and entrepreneurs after the Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman announced sweeping plans to ditch net neutrality rules.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's commented on Wednesday that there will be a vote in May on whether to undo some of the key rules surrounding net neutrality. His comments have a lot of people in the technology industry, as well as the general public, worried that the Internet will no longer be open and equal.

Pai has championed the deregulation of the Internet and is considering loosening the FCC rules that currently prohibit broadband providers from blocking, slowing down, or charging more money to certain websites.

Internet Service Providers -- such as AT&T -- have applauded his latest push against the net neutrality rules that were put in place in 2015.

AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson said Wednesday, "We applaud FCC Chairman Pai's initiative to remove this stifling regulatory cloud over the internet," and he described the 2015 rules as "illogical."

But a letter sent to the FCC chairman Wednesday from 800 startups and entrepreneurs who are in favor of the existing net neutrality rules warns, "Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice."

Members of Congress, as well free speech advocates, are also expressing deep concerns about what would happen if the FCC were no longer to monitor telecommunication giants such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast for bad behavior.

San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for civil liberties online, said in a statement Wednesday, "Net neutrality protects free speech, innovation, and competition," and warned that a roll back "would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection."

EFF said Pai's proposal would mean that the government would not be able to prevent Internet Service Providers from abusive blocking, privacy violations, throttling of Internet content or "pay-to-play fast lanes".

U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "It's almost as if the Trump Administration was determined to stack the deck against consumers" and in the favor of "powerful special interests." She argues that dismantling net neutrality would not only hurt consumers but "chill competition" and "punish entrepreneurs."

"The internet must be a level playing field where success is founded on the best ideas, not the deepest pockets," Pelosi warned.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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