Don’t throttle net neutrality

December 12, 2017

Steve Leigh reports on protests against planned government changes to regulations that will let large corporations have even more control of the internet.

THOUSANDS OF people rallied in hundreds of cities across the country on December 7 to demand that Congress stop the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) plan to kill network neutrality.

The repeal of net neutrality would be a financial boon for large internet service providers and potentially restrict access and increase costs for millions of users. As Ryan de Laureal explained at SocialistWorker.org, the currently existing net neutrality provision, known as the "Open Internet Order":

declared the internet to be a public utility and mandated that ISPs treat all internet traffic equally. This prevented businesses from censoring web sites and content; creating tiered service where users must pay more for internet "fast lanes"; slowing down (or "throttling") content from competitors; or charging customers extra fees for streaming, downloading or other online activities.

The FCC has slated a vote on net neutrality for December 14. Already, 23 million people have sent comments on the issue, with at least 60 percent of those in favor of net neutrality. More than 840,000 calls in support of net neutrality have been made through the Battle for the Net campaign website since Thanksgiving alone.

Defenders of net neutrality protest FCC Chair Ajit Pai and telecom lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
Defenders of net neutrality protest FCC Chair Ajit Pai and telecom lobbyists in Washington, D.C. (Stephen Melkisethian | flickr)

Tim Karr, senior director of strategy for Free Press, an advocacy group involved in the Battle for the Net campaign reported that net neutrality supporters protested outside 700 Verizon stores on December 7, calling attention to the fact that FCC Chair Ajit Pai is a former Verizon lawyer. Protests ranged from 350 people in New York City to a couple dozen in Souix Falls, South Dakota.

"Access to a free and fair internet is necessary for a functioning democracy," Lauren Gruber, a writer for a branding agency who joined the New York protest told the Associated Press. If the net-neutrality rules are repealed, she said, "it's just another showcase of oligarchy upon America."

In Seattle, more than 100 people rallied and marched. The first stop was a picket at a Verizon store. After a speak-out, protesters marched to AT&T and Comcast locations in the downtown area, drawing attention to other corporate supporters of the repeal of net neutrality. Along the way, the march received support from passersby and drivers.

Protesters raised issues beyond just net neutrality. "When the internet is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!" they chanted, before raising similar chants in defense of women's rights, Black lives, immigrants and Muslims. Speakers stressed that democracy needs an open internet.

In Minneapolis, some 60 people rallied outside a Verizon store, including members of Team Internet, Green Party candidate for Senate Paula Overby and concerned individuals.

Activists gave speeches on the need for public internet as a utility, and spoke about how they depend on the internet for their work, Others mentions horrible state of the internet in the U.S. compared to other countries in spite of our wealth and noted how the internet allowed them to become politically active.

The fight for an open internet will go on, no matter how the FCC votes on December 14. If the FCC overturns net neutrality, the struggle will go to Congress, where net neutrality supporters are vowing to continue the fight.

Democratic politicians will attempt to use this as a campaign issue in 2018, as they will with the Republican tax plan and the attempted overturn of Obamacare. However, there is no guarantee that, even if the Democrats win control of Congress in 2018, they will repeal the Republican plans.

We need to do everything we can to fight for net neutrality now and keep the pressure on as long as needed, no matter who wins in 2018.

Pierce Putz contributed to this article.

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