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Etsy Weighs In on Net Neutrality as FCC Comment Deadline Looms

Only a week to go until initial net neutrality comments are due on the agency's controversial plan.


With just a week to go until a filing deadline, companies are starting to weigh in on the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial fast-lane net neutrality proposal.

E-commerce marketplace Etsy said Tuesday in a blog post that it can’t support the current proposal, which would allow Internet providers to charge content companies to use faster, priority lanes into subscribers’ homes. “Etsy’s continued growth depends on equal access to consumers,” the company said.

The FCC’s net neutrality proposal would ban Internet providers from discriminating against legal Internet traffic and from blocking websites. But Internet activists complain the agency isn’t using sound legal footing for the proposal and should instead simply re-regulate Internet lines under rules written for phone networks.

In an official filing with the agency, Etsy said Chairman Tom Wheeler’s assurances that his plan won’t create a fast-lane/slow-lane Internet because the agency would veto any unreasonable commercial proposal weren’t enough.

“The proposed ‘commercially reasonable’ standard and ‘minimum access levels’ give us no comfort,” the company said in the filing. “If the proposed rules were in place when Etsy was founded, we would never have achieved the success we have today. Etsy and other startups will suffer if the FCC allows some companies to negotiate priority or exclusive access to consumers.”

Companies on both sides of the debate are expected to weigh in over the next week on Wheeler’s proposal (probably next week, because procrastination). Thus far, startups and smaller companies have been more vocal about their concerns because they’re worried they may be socked with new fees from Internet providers in coming years.

Google’s expected comments on the proposal could be especially interesting, since the search giant played a huge role the last time this issue came up in 2010, but it has been mostly quiet so far. The company may have a different perspective on the debate now that it operates its own fiber-to-the-home broadband network, which could be regulated under old rules written for telephone lines if some net neutrality advocates have their way.

As of last week, the agency had received more than 625,000 comments and emails about Wheeler’s proposal. The deadline for initial comments is July 15, but the agency will accept responses on comments already made through mid-September. The agency isn’t expected to make a final decision on how to proceed until the end of the year (at the earliest, since the agency is also considering two large mergers.)

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