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Apple co-founder and ‘father of the internet’ tell the FCC: ‘You don’t understand how the internet works’

Steve Wozniak speaking at eMerge in Miami on June 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Steve Wozniak speaking at eMerge in Miami on June 12, 2017.

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on whether to repeal the 2015 Obama-era regulations protecting net neutrality, laws which ensure an open and free internet.

A group of 21 pioneers of the internet including Vinton G. Cerf, often dubbed the "father of the internet" for his early work developing the technology, and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, published an open letter demanding the Restoring Internet Freedom Order vote be canceled.

The tech giants don't tread lightly: "You don't understand how the Internet works," the header of the statement reads, referring to the FCC.

"We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. We are writing to respectfully urge you to call on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel the December 14 vote," the letter, published Monday, reads.

It's addressed to four members of Congress, all of whom hold roles on the technology and innovation committees: Roger Wicker (R, Miss.), Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii), Marsha Blackburn (R, Tenn.) and Michael F. Doyle (D, Penn.). None have responded, signatory Scott Bradner tells CNBC Make It on Wednesday.

In a piece he penned for The Wall Street Journal, Chairman Pai lobbies for a repeal of the current neutrality mandates, which require internet access providers like Verizon, AT&T, Charter and CNBC parent company Comcast to be equal in their distribution of bandwidth. Instead, he favors a framework that requires such companies simply to be "transparent" about distribution of service. He argues the Obama-era mandates are too "heavy-handed."

However, according to the letter, repealing these regulations will eliminate key protections that "prevent Internet access providers from blocking content, websites and applications, slowing or speeding up services or classes of service, and charging online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers' customers." There would be inadequate protections for "consumers, free markets and online innovation," reads the letter.

Additionally, the signatories assert the FCC's proposed order "is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology," and refer back to a 43-page dossier submitted by a group of some 200 internet pioneers in July, which, among other things explains these inaccuracies.

"In short, if the current rules are not preserved, the rapid pace of innovation the Internet has experienced over the last forty years could come to a disastrous halt," the July dossier declares.

Monday's letter also says the review process for the proposed rule has been unacceptable.

"The FCC's online comment system has been plagued by major problems that the FCC has not had time to investigate. These include bot-generated comments that impersonated Americans, including dead people, and an unexplained outage of the FCC's on-line comment system that occurred at the very moment TV host John Oliver was encouraging Americans to submit comments to the system," the letter published Monday says.

The New York Attorney General has sharply criticized the FCC for not responding to these fake comments.

As such, the tech pioneers oppose the upcoming vote.

"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. It should be stopped."

An email from CNBC Make It to the FCC had not been responded to by the time this story was published. But in his November Journal article, Commissioner Pai said he believes removing regulation on broadband companies is the best way to support the industry.

"In the next few weeks, anti-market ideologues are going to try to scare the American people. They'll argue that government control is the only way to assure a free and open internet. They'll assert that repealing utility-style regulation will destroy the internet as we know it and harm innovation. They'll allege that free speech online is at risk. Don't fall for the fearmongering," Pai wrote.

"We have proof that markets work: For almost two decades, the U.S. had a free and open internet without these heavy-handed rules. There was no market failure before 2015. Americans weren't living in a digital dystopia before the FCC seized power. To the contrary, millions enjoyed an online economy that was the envy of the world."

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC and CNBC.com.

See also:

New York attorney general slams the FCC for 'refusal to assist' investigation into fake comments about net neutrality

The FCC has plans to dismantle the rule protecting a neutral internet

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