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Net and tech pioneers: Hey FCC, don't repeal net neutrality

"You don’t understand how the internet works," tech trailblazers write in an open letter opposing an FCC proposal up for vote this week.

People at a protest hold signs in support of net neutrality
Protesters advocate against a plan by FCC head Ajit Pai to repeal current net neutrality rules. 

Ajit Pai's plan to toss out the FCC's net neutrality rules has some prominent critics.

Pioneers of the internet and other computer technology on Monday called for the Federal Communications Commission to cancel a vote this week at which the agency is expected to repeal net neutrality regulations designed to protect internet traffic from discrimination. 

"You don't understand how the internet works," an open letter posted on Tumblr said. Among the more than 20 tech trailblazers who signed the letter were Vint Cerf, a founding figure of the internet; Steve Wozniak, a co-founder of Apple; and Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

"The FCC's rushed and technically incorrect proposed order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create," the letter said. "It should be stopped."

The agency didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the open letter.

Now playing: Watch this: Protesters gather to raise net neutrality awareness

Net neutrality is the principle that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Supporters of the current rules, put in place in 2015, say they ensure broadband providers don't abuse their power as gatekeepers to the internet. Broadband companies back Pai's plan, arguing that the regulation is heavy-handed and has hurt investment.  

Pai, who became chairman of the FCC earlier this year, objects to the legal framework on which those rules reside.

Later this week, the FCC is expected to vote on a proposal that would repeal the 2015 order.

Specifically, the proposal would undo regulations that prohibit broadband and wireless companies from slowing or blocking access to the internet and banning them from charging internet companies fees to reach their customers faster than competitors. It would also strip the FCC of authority to regulate broadband networks, leaving policing of the internet to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

Last week, protesters took to the streets outside Verizon stores around the US to try to rally opposition to the FCC vote.

Verizon was the target of the protest because Pai worked as a lawyer for the carrier before his appointment to the FCC. The company has said it has no plans to block or slow access to the internet. But Verizon has opposed the reclassification of broadband, which imposes stricter regulation on its networks.

Monday's letter, nominally addressed to four members of Congress, criticized the proposal itself for being based on "flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of internet technology."

It also blasted the FCC for failing to hold an open public meeting on the measure and for failures of the commission's online comment system

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