Nothing but net
The fight over net neutrality comes to a head
On Nov. 22, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the Federal Communications Commission’s five commissioners. The headline read, “I’m on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality.”
Net neutrality requires internet service providers to treat all online data the same and prohibits them from speeding up, slowing down, blocking or charging differently by user, content, website, platform or application. In other words, it means the companies that connect you to the internet do not get to control what you do on the internet.
Rosenworcel, a Democrat, was originally appointed to the FCC by Obama and later reappointed by Trump. In 2015, she was one of three commissioners who voted to classify broadband as a communication service and regulate internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—which regulates public utilities.
The 3-2 vote allowed the FCC to enforce the principles of net neutrality—but it may soon be overturned. In April, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai—who also served on the commission during the Obama administration—announced plans to roll back net neutrality. In May, the now Republican-controlled commission voted to move forward with a review of Pai’s proposal and opened a public comment period. Nearly 22 million comments were submitted—more than five times the FCC’s previous comment record of 3.7 million, set during the last net neutrality proceedings.
That was back during 2014, and comedian John Oliver, host of the HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, has often been credited with inspiring much of the wave of comments. The Washington Post reported that only a day after Oliver asked his viewers to flood the FCC website with comments in favor of net neutrality, the commission’s “commenting system had stopped working, thanks to more than 45,000 new comments on net neutrality likely sparked by Oliver.”
The same may have happened after Oliver did another segment on net neutrality in May, again asking viewers to flood the FCC site with comments, though the commission said in a statement that problems with its website—which started shortly after Oliver’s segment—were the result of a cyberattack, not an influx of people attempting to submit comments.
The comment period regarding the FCC’s current proposals for net neutrality closed on Aug. 30 but began making headlines again over the Thanksgiving weekend, when claims started circulating of fake comments submitted in favor of repeal.
A Nov. 25 article in Fortune reported: “Data scientist Jeff Kao says that more than a million public comments in support of the FCC’s planned rollback of net neutrality rules are likely fake. Kao also, by removing the fake pro-repeal comments, concluded that more than 99 percent of the unique, human-authored comments on the system favored maintaining current net neutrality rules.”
Still, Pai has argued repeatedly that net neutrality rules aren’t necessary.
“The internet is the greatest free market success in history,” he said during an April speech in Washington D.C. “For decades before 2015, the free and open internet flourished under light-touch regulation.”
But proponents of net neutrality, including Rosenworcel, worry that undoing regulations would just be clearing the way for ISPs to control the content people access, and the speeds at which they’re able to get it, through the creation of “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” on the internet.
Another recent article in Fortune notes that this is “not an unfounded concern. In 2007, the FCC sued Comcast for interfering with traffic from BitTorrent, the file transfer service. The commission lost, owing to a lack of legal basis for the complaint—basis it later achieved with the 2015 reclassification.”
The FCC will vote on the matter on Dec. 14. In the meantime, Rosenworcel wants people to take a stand.
“I think the FCC needs to work for the public, and therefore that this proposal needs to be slowed down and eventually stopped,” she wrote in her op-ed. “In the time before the agency votes, anyone who agrees should do something old-fashioned: Make a ruckus.”
It would seem people in Reno intend to do just that.
Fight for the Future is a non-profit that was founded in 2011. According to its website, the organization’s mission is “to ensure that the web continues to hold freedom of expression and creativity at its core.”
The organization has been involved in campaigns concerning internet rights and web censorship since its founding. In 2012, it organized an online protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Senate’s companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The group was also involved in driving traffic to the FCC comment site during 2014 net neutrality proceedings.
Now, through a campaign called “Team Internet,” Fight for the Future is encouraging people to organize protests on the local level. The campaign website—battleforthenet.com—shows hundreds of upcoming events. Some of these are for sit-down meetings with congressional representatives, but the majority of them are for protests planned at Verizon Wireless retail stores across the country on Thursday, Dec. 7, one week before the FCC’s expected net neutrality vote.
Here in Reno, two protests are being planned by locals. Alex Worden, who is hosting a protest outside of the Verizon store at the Summit Reno mall, said he’s concerned that many people don’t understand net neutrality.
“I think people don’t really realize how important it is to have that law in place,” Worden said. “I know my sister, when I told her about it—she didn’t even know what was going on. I had to explain it her, what they’re doing. I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know about the law in the first place.”
The protest Worden is organizing will start at 1 p.m. on Dec. 7, and he’s encouraging people to remember that it’s a peaceful protest and to bring signs and printed materials.
The other protest scheduled in Reno is being organized by Alex Goodman and will begin at the Verizon store at Smithridge Center at 12 p.m. on Dec. 7. According to Goodman’s event page, at around 1 p.m., the “group will begin to march and protest all the way to the office of Mark Amodei, less than a mile away.”