Today is the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, in which more than 50,000 people, sites, and organizations, including Amazon, Etsy Facebook, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Netflix, OK Cupid, Reddit, Twitter and Vimeo, will demonstrate to oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to repeal Net Neutrality regulations put in place under President Obama.
The Day of Action comes six years after the day 115,000 websites went “on strike” to protest the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) which triggered more than 10 million voters to contact Congress. The result was immediate, as 95 members of Congress switched their position overnight including eleven SOPA sponsors who shifted to opposition.
So what is it all about? In 2015, the FCC adopted the current Net Neutrality rules after a grass roots campaign generated over four million comments in support of Net Neutrality. The rules were upheld by a federal court of appeals in 2016, but the new Trump FCC has proposed repealing the rules and is receiving comments on the proposal through July 17th.
The issue of Net Neutrality is quite simple but it often gets obscured through misleading slogans like charges that the proposal was a “government takeover of the internet.”
Net Neutrality is nothing new. First, let’s deal with the basics. Net neutrality is not some new concept that President Obama pulled out of a hat, but rather is a principle dating back to the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860 that communication providers not discriminate in transmitting content and instead impartially transmit all messages in the order of their reception.
All this changed, however, under President George W. Bush when his FCC Chairman elected to remove broadband services from common carrier obligations under the Communications Act. President Obama’s Net Neutrality regulations simply reasserted the FCC’s authority and restored longstanding rules against discrimination.
Net Neutrality is about free speech. Net Neutrality is all about ensuring a free and open internet where robust debate is not stifled by internet service providers (ISPs). For example, Verizon, which challenge the regulations in court, had blocked pro-choice text messages and argued during its challenge to the rules that it had a First Amendment right to censor traffic on its network. Another ISP blocked access to nearly 800 websites supporting a union strike against the carrier.
The repeal effort is yet another example of powerful corporate interests trying to suppress free speech as demonstrated in the recent documentary “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press” and Donald Trump’s war against a free press.
Net Neutrality is about innovation and competition. A free market in which consumers are allowed to pick and choose the devices, programs and services they like promotes competition and advances innovation. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have all blocked competing products ranging from Google Wallet to Skype, while a number of ISPs have redirected internet search results to the ISPs favored browser.
Net Neutrality is about consumer choice and non-discrimination. Net Neutrality seeks to ensure that the consumer is able to freely use the websites and services they select when they select them. ISPs, however, want to pick favorites. Comcast has throttled and blocked users to prevent access to file sharing sites; MetroPCS has blocked streaming video; while AT&T has throttled heavy users in its “unlimited data” plan.
ISPs also dream of an internet with toll lanes, where they can give preferred access to websites that pay for priority access as Comcast demanded of Netflix and Verizon conceded it hoped to do so in its court challenge.
FCC Chairman Pai recently shut down investigations into AT&T and Verizon who effectively charged more for the use of third-party streaming media by excluding their own streaming media apps from customers’ data caps. Amazingly, Pai questions whether the FCC even needs to address issues such as throttling and paid priority lanes.
While Pai and others falsely condemn Net Neutrality as a government takeover of the internet, the reality is that Pai’s proposal shifts control of the internet from you to the ISPs. Essentially, Chairman Pai is asking us to trust the kind-hearted ISPs like AT&T who sued to block the Net Neutrality rules but claims it will participate in the Day of Action because it supports a free and open internet.
If you are not as trusting, or more importantly, if you believe in a free and open internet – JOIN US in this protest.
If you believe in freedom of speech, innovation and customer choice, then you should MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD before July 17th. This website will allow you to let the FCC, Congress and the White House know that you support Net Neutrality.
As Robert Kennedy said,
Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.
Join us in making history and saving the Internet.