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Steve Wozniak: Net neutrality rollback ‘will end the internet as we know it’

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy.

“The path forward is clear. The FCC must abandon its ill-conceived plan to end net neutrality,” wrote Wozniak and Copps. “Instead of creating fast lanes for the few, it should be moving all of us to the fast lane by encouraging competition in local broadband connectivity and pushing companies to deliver higher speeds at more affordable prices. It’s the right thing for us as consumers and as citizens.”

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.

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In 2015, the FCC passed a resolution to reclassify providers like public utilities and subjected them to tougher regulations. The now-Republican-led FCC wants to erase the reclassification with the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal.

The proposal drew a record 22 million public comments and media attention over the past few months. In July, tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon spoke out against the proposal in a “Day of Action” protest. Internet providers AT&T and Comcast  raised eyebrows when they declared support for net neutrality and the day of action, although the rollback of the rules would benefit them.

Wozniak and Copp urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to heed the public cries against the proposal.

“Sometimes there’s a nugget of truth to the adage that Washington policymakers are disconnected from the people they purport to represent,” they wrote. “It is a stirring example of democracy in action. With the Internet’s future as a platform for innovation and democratic discourse on the line, a coalition of grassroots and diverse groups joined with technology firms to insist that the FCC maintain its 2015 open internet (or ‘net neutrality’) rules.”

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Opponents of net neutrality took a blow on Thursday, when the Senate voted 59-41 to advance Pai’s re-nomination as FCC Chairman. Once the Senate votes again next week to confirm Pai’s re-nomination, Pai will remain at his position for another five years.

One net neutrality advocacy group started a petition to urge the Senate to fire Pai. The group, Free Press, says it collected more than 10,000 votes in the first 24 hours.

“Since he joined the Commission, he’s worked to undo policies designed to protect internet users, communities of color and poor people,” reads the petition. “He’s failing at his job.”

Photo: Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple Computers with Steve Jobs in 1976, gestures during his address to business leaders at Woz Live in Sydney on May 14, 2012. (TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Tags: Ajit Pai, net neutrality, steve wozniak

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