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US Move to Cancel Net Neutrality Provokes Widespread Outcry

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After U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally released a draft of its plan to kill net-neutrality rules earlier this week, public outcry was joined by strong opposition from tech giants like Facebook and Google.

The net-neutrality policy, made U.S. law in 2015, equalized access to the internet and prevented broadband providers from favoring their own apps and services.

The proposed change in the policy would allow telecom giants to charge internet companies for speedier access to consumers and to block outside services they don't like. The change also axes a host of consumer protections, including privacy requirements and rules barring unfair practices that gave consumers an avenue to pursue complaints about price gouging.

Regulators will vote on the policy change Dec. 14.

"It would be a radical departure from what previous [FCC] chairs, of both parties, have done," said Gigi Sohn, a former adviser to Tom Wheeler, the Obama-era FCC chairman who enacted the net neutrality rules now being overturned. "It would leave consumers and competition completely unprotected."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his plan eliminates unnecessary regulation. But many worry that his proposal will stifle small tech firms and leave ordinary citizens more at the mercy of cable and wireless companies.

The FCC asked consumers to contribute to the debate, receiving a record 22 million responses.

While smaller startups are most at risk, technology's biggest companies have joined in the protest.

"We are disappointed that the proposal announced this week by the FCC fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone," said Facebook in a statement. "We will work with all stakeholders committed to this principle."

Google joined in, stating the current rules "are working well."

On Twitter, Netflix wrote "This current draft order hasn't been officially voted, so we're lodging our opposition publicly and loudly now."

Some telecom companies have responded to concerns, saying they would continue offering standard rates to consumers.

Comcast's chief diversity officer wrote, "Comcast has already made net neutrality promises to our customers, and we will continue to follow those standards, regardless of the regulations in place."

AT&T said that "all major ISPs have publicly committed to preserving an open internet" and that any ISP "foolish" enough to manipulate what's available online for customers will be "quickly and decisively called out."

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