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Crowdfunding campaign wants a net neutrality billboard near FCC headquarters

Ohanian turns to crowdfunding site to raise money for a billboard opposing the FCC chairman's proposal

By Grant Gross
May 2, 2014 10:51 AM ET

IDG News Service - Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian launched a crowdfunding campaign to let the U.S. Federal Communications Commission know, in a big and bold message, that many Internet users are not happy with the agency's new net neutrality proposal.

Alexis Ohanian
Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian is using crowdfunding site Crowdtilt.com to raise money to place a billboard supporting strong net neutrality rules near the U.S. Federal Communications Commission headquarters.

Ohanian's fundraising campaign on Crowdtilt.com would pay for a billboard near FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C., that protests agency Chairman Tom Wheeler's recent net neutrality proposal.

Wheeler's proposal, which would allow broadband providers to engage in some "commercially reasonable" traffic management, would create a pay-for-priority Internet "fast lane" that will leave some entrepreneurs and Internet users behind, Ohanian said in a video accompanying his fundraising proposal.

FCC commissioners need to realize that the Internet is "a utility, like electricity or potable water that's fundamental to our country," he said. "There are a handful of cable companies that don't want it that way because they want to be able to charge more to certain companies."

Ohanian, now a startup advisor, also encouraged Internet users to contact the FCC and their lawmakers and demand strong net neutrality protections. FCC commissioners "need to know that we cannot screw this up," he added. "We can't. It's too vital."

Ohanian announced the fundraising campaign Saturday, two days after news broke about Wheeler's net neutrality proposal. The FCC chairman is reintroducing proposed net neutrality rules after a U.S. appeals court in January struck down an older version of the rules.

The FCC is scheduled to vote to release Wheeler's proposal for public comment on May 15. Wheeler has defended the proposal, saying the agency will not allow broadband providers to "force Internet users into a slow lane."

"The focus of this proposal ... is on maintaining a broadly available, fast and robust Internet as a platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment," Wheeler said Wednesday at a cable trade show. "We will follow the court's blueprint for achieving this, and, I must warn you, will look skeptically on special exceptions."

But critics of Wheeler's proposal say it is a weak rewrite of the earlier rules and would allow broadband providers to collect fees from websites and services in exchange for prioritized traffic. Wheeler has said the FCC would reject most pay-for-priority plans, but FCC officials will look at potential net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, as suggested by the appeals court.

Ohanian's fundraising campaign had raised more than US$10,800 from more than 250 contributors by early Friday. The campaign had 13 days left to raise his target of $20,000 on crowd-funding site Crowdtilt.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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