(Adds further details of FCC proposal, Nancy Pelosi letter)
LOS ANGELES, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Video streaming service Netflix Inc will join Reddit, Kickstarter and thousands of other websites on Wednesday in an online protest that calls for strong U.S. rules to ensure equal treatment of Internet traffic.
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, also joined the ranks of Netflix, consumer advocates and others who are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to set stricter rules for Internet service providers (ISPs) by regulating them more like public utilities.
The FCC is considering so-called “net neutrality” rules that would determine whether Internet providers should be able to charge content companies in some circumstances to ensure their websites or applications load smoothly and quickly.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed allowing payments for prioritized delivery as long as the deals are deemed “commercially reasonable.” Critics, however, worry this could lead to fast lanes for websites that pay broadband providers for quicker delivery, and slow lanes for companies that do not pay.
A federal court in January struck down the FCC’s earlier version of the rules in a case brought by Verizon Communications Inc.
On Wednesday, Netflix and other websites will display a spinning icon that represents a slow-loading Internet, with a link to more information about the FCC’s proposal. On Netflix, the icon will appear on the Netflix.com home pages for members and non-members. No videos will be slowed.
Thousands of other websites will display the spinning icon, according to a statement from consumer group Free Press, one of the organizers of the online protest.
Internet campaigns have impacted policy issues in the past. In 2012, a massive online mobilization of Internet users and major websites helped sink U.S. anti-piracy legislation.
Netflix, Free Press and other advocates have urged the FCC to reclassify ISPs as telecommunications services rather than the less-regulated information services they are now. They say the move would give more power to the FCC to stop potential violators of net neutrality.
ISPs such as Comcast Corp and Republicans, both in Congress and at the FCC, staunchly oppose the reclassification idea. Wheeler has not proposed reclassification as the solution, but has not taken it off the table as a potential option.
“Innovators prefer bright-line rules and worry the proposed rules would force them into commercial arrangements that require payments of tolls in cash or equity to get their ideas on the Internet,” Pelosi, of California, wrote in a letter to Wheeler on Monday.
“I oppose special Internet fast lanes, only open to those firms large enough to pay big money or fraught enough to give up big stakes in their company,” Pelosi wrote, asking the FCC to reclassify ISPs.
The FCC is collecting public comments on the net neutrality proposal through September 15. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Hay)