Protests are planned at Verizon stores across the country on Thursday amid the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to scrap net neutrality regulations that currently require internet providers to treat all content equally.
“We’ll demand that our members of Congress take action to stop Verizon’s puppet FCC from killing net neutrality,” the protest organizers ― the groups Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and the Freepress Action Fund ― say on the website promoting the demonstrations.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced last month that the agency seeks to undo Obama-era net neutrality rules. The rules keep companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon (which owns Oath, HuffPost’s parent company) from “charging extra fees, engaging in censorship, or controlling what we see and do on the web by throttling websites, apps, and online services,” the protest groups say on their site.
Since Pai’s announcement, celebrities have joined others in vocal opposition to the agency’s plan:
The protests target Verizon stores in part because Pai was the company’s associate general counsel from 2001 to 2003.
The demonstrations “will be quick, fun, and 100% legal,” the protest groups say on their site, while also noting the gatherings will occur “at the peak of the busy holiday shopping season.”
Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, told HuffPost via email that the protests aim to “visually show the outrage sweeping the internet, and generate local awareness that pressures members of Congress to do their jobs” and persuade the FCC to hold off on its scheduled Dec. 14 vote on ending net neutrality.
Lawmakers “should exercise their oversight authority and pressure the FCC to cancel the vote,” he said.
“At each protest, participants will carry signs with messages like, ‘Killing net neutrality hurts small businesses,‘” he said. “Participants will also call and tweet at their lawmakers, and in some cities will march to lawmakers’ offices.”
According to battleforthenet.com, over 765,000 calls have already been made to Congress as of Monday afternoon to urge lawmakers to wade in on the fight.
“Right now we are laser focused on stopping the FCC from getting to a vote on Dec. 14,” Greer said. “We’re making sure that (lawmakers) know if they allow this vote to go forward, the public will know who to blame. If the FCC votes to kill the rules, public interest groups will fight them in court, and we’ll be demanding that lawmakers act to reverse the decision.”
Initially, small demonstrations were planned in about a dozen cities, “but there has been such a massive outcry” over the FCC’s plan “that now there are more than 600 protests in all 50 states, organized by volunteers who are coming out of the woodwork to engage on this issue,” Greer said.
HuffPost spoke to one of those volunteers, Emma Dill, who helped organize the protest planned at the Verizon store in the Bryant Park area of Manhattan.
“The internet is pretty central to all of our lives. Over the last year, the internet’s played a huge role in helping us stay informed about politics and current events, and, more importantly, enabled organizers to quickly spread info and organize,” she said. “Nationwide events like this would be substantially harder to build if you had to pay to get the message to people who care.”
Dill, a digital product manager, says the protest will be a peaceful gathering and that she hopes “people are made aware of what’s going on.”
“A rollback of net neutrality could have a huge impact on our everyday lives, but thanks to all of the other high-priority issues happening right now it hasn’t gotten a ton of airtime,” she said.
Greer said he had not “seen any official response” from Verizon on the protests. The company did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Pai said last month on “Fox & Friends” that the repeal of the current regulations would simply be “putting engineers and entrepreneurs, instead of bureaucrats and lawyers, in charge of the internet.”
If you’re interested in joining in on the protests, you can find one near you here.