Federal Comnunications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler (Brian Fung / The Washington Post)

Mere hours after a group of top tech companies wrote to the Federal Communications Commission to oppose the agency's proposed rules for net neutrality, nearly 50 venture capitalists are doing the same.

The letter, which is signed by high-profile investor Ron Conway, GigaOm founder Om Malik and reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian, argues that small startups would be harmed by the FCC rules, which would allow broadband providers to charge Web companies for better access to consumers.

"If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level playing field," the letter addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reads. "Entrepreneurs will need to raise money to buy fast lane services before they have proven that consumers want their product. Investors will extract more equity from entrepreneurs to compensate for the risk."

What's more, the letter warned, investors themselves might be deterred from backing new projects if they believe Internet providers see a threat in a new company. "They will use the same technical infrastructure to advantage their own services or use network management as an excuse to disadvantage competitive offerings," the VCs wrote.

Whether or how much innovation and investment would suffer has become part of the debate over net neutrality rules. On Wednesday, Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin pushed back against claims that venture capitalists would stop giving money to startups, arguing that, well, that's what VCs do.

"Investors who ignore the business potential of the Internet, with or without net neutrality, are simply ignoring reality," Brodkin wrote.

Still,  although changes to net neutrality wouldn't make innovation impossible, such rules would make it harder and more expensive, says Nick Grossman, an entrepreneur at Union Square Ventures who signed the VCs' letter. "Watching countless music startups fail under the cost of negotiating up-front deals with labels, watching payments and IP telephony startups die at the behest of app stores and carriers, it's clear that this risk is real," Grossman told The Washington Post on Thursday.