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Net neutrality: Tech CEOs are shying away from testifying to Congress

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After a public show for protecting net neutrality regulations on the “Day of Action” on July 12, CEOs for the biggest companies in Silicon Valley are demurring from testifying to Congress about net neutrality’s future.

The chiefs for Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix have not signed on to speak to Congress in September by the July 31 deadline. Neither have the CEOs for four internet service providers — Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon — according to Recode.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which set the deadline, has extended the deadline in hopes the CEOs will have a change of heart.

Robin Colwell, the lawyer representing the committee, asked tech companies on Monday what they think a national legislation on net neutrality can look like, according to Reuters.

“So all we are looking for at this stage is a list of asks,” Colwell said in an email obtained by Reuters. “From your perspective, what needs to stay, what needs to be added, and what needs to go?”

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Net neutrality is a longstanding digital principle that internet service providers should treat all web traffic equally and fairly. This means providers cannot prefer one website or service over the other by granting unequal loading speeds or by blocking or slowing content. 

The Day of Action was the latest protest by internet companies and digital rights advocacy groups to protect Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which the current Republican-led FCC wants to roll back. More than 14 million online comments were filed to the FCC in the past three months over the rollback.

Tired by the changes in opinion within the FCC as dictated by the political majority, both advocates and opponents of net neutrality are pushing for legislation to address the issue.

AT&T, which has long opposed net neutrality, supports a legislative route to prevent future protests around the issue. The service provider also said it supported the Day of Action, although its organizers scoffed at that.

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Despite tech CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg supporting the legislative route, they have not committed to showing up on Capitol Hill. Behind the scenes, they seem to be afraid of being grilled on questions beyond net neutrality and preferred sending their subordinates to Washington, according to Recode.

Without the tech CEOs’ input, House Republicans are still pushing through and hoped the companies can discuss the framework of a possible net neutrality bill in a private meeting on September 7.

Photo: The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington in 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Tags: amazon, AT&T, facebook, Google, net neutrality, Netflix

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