Shapeways enters the fight for net neutrality

3D printing marketplace and service provider Shapeways has filed formal comments in defense of net neutrality with the United States Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

Dated July 17, 2017, the document has been filed following a National Day of Action in the United States to help prevent Internet Service Providers’ (ISPs) control over data shared by their users.

Save the open internet. Chained Earth graphic via the Electronic Frontier Foundation
Save the open internet. Chained Earth graphic via the Electronic Frontier Foundation

For anyone unfamiliar with the debate over control of the Internet, net neutrality, as defined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

….is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services

An example of this would be an ISP deliberately slowing its users’ access to the website of a competing provider, or prioritizing user access to content paid for by its partners.

The idea is integral to the principal of an open internet within which users are offered “unrestricted access to lawful information.”

“Without an open internet, there would be no Shapeways”

Policies had been put in place by the FCC to protect the freedom of the Open Internet, but FCC chairman Ajit V. Pai sparked the July 17 backlash by making motion to dismiss these rules.

According to Shapeways CEO and co-founder Peter Weijmarshausen, the current proposals “walk away from robust open internet rules demanded by internet users.” He continues,

Without an open internet, there would be no Shapeways […] I believe that destroying the protections for an open internet would be disastrous for Shapeways and the Shapeways community — and even more so for new companies, which, like Shapeways, seek to disrupt and innovate. The open internet is what allows Shapeways to reach you, and what allows our shop owners to reach the world.

Challenging discrimination 

Weijmarshausen’s comments have since been backed up by a formal document filed by Shapeways IP & General Counsel Michael Weinberg, who is also Board President of the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) that advocates the benefits of open source building.

Alicia Gibb and Michael Weinberg
Alicia Gibb and Michael Weinberg speak on OSHWA certification.

In the filing Weinberg argues that the open internet is essential to the continued growth of Shapeways’ business. This in turn means that the tens of thousands of small businesses that rely on Shapeways as a marketplace would also suffer as a result of disregard for the rules.

In a broader perspective, Weinberg also states that diminished rules prohibiting the control of ISP’s would effectively invite them to discriminate against any businesses on the Internet.

Weinberg also picked up on concerns over IP protection in 3D printing as discussed in the statement case of Varsity Brands vs. Star Athletica.

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Featured image via Shapeways on Facebook.