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Save the Internet!

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Posted on May 5, 2014

Photo by GraciolliDotCom (CC BY 2.0)

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance

This article was produced by Popular Resistance in conjunction with AlterNet.

Update: There are actions every day starting on Wednesday, May 7th, at noon and 5 pm. To Save The Internet, we are building a People’s Firewall against the FCC’s proposed rule that will create a ‘pay to play’ Internet by ending net neutrality. The FCC is located at 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.

If we act NOW, we can ensure a free, open and equal Internet for the 21st Century. On Wednesday, May 15 the FCC will vote on a proposal to end net neutrality and impose class-based Internet discrimination, but we have the power to stop them.

To ensure the Internet we want, we must take action today; and people need to plan to come to Washington, DC beginning next Wednesday to join in a series of escalating protests that will undermine the legitimacy of the FCC leadership and force them to pay attention to the public interest rather than the interests of mega-corporations.

Already more than a million people have written the FCC in favor of net neutrality and the Commissioners are receiving more than 100 calls per day from citizens. They know the public wants a free, open and equal Internet. Now we have to show them we will revolt if it is taken away from us.

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The proposal by Obama appointee, Tom Wheeler , a long-time industry lobbyist and Internet profiteer, will put in place a pay-to-play Internet where the wealthiest will have superior service to the rest of us, where big corporations will have faster websites than independent sites and where free speech is stifled by money. The Internet has become the great democratizer of media where independent and social media have flourished and allowed people to create an alternative to the concentrated corporate media. We will not let Wheeler undermine media democratization and turn most of us into second-class Internet citizens.

This is an issue that affects all of us – Internet news sites like this one and other independent media, advocacy websites, community radio, social media, blogging sites and you, who are reading this article on the Internet.  Democratized communication depends on the Internet being free and open to all on an equal basis.  Wheeler’s proposal will undermine open communication and free speech on the Internet.

The primary driving force for Wheeler’s proposal is profit for a small group of massive monopoly corporations. Corporations like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T see the Internet as a money machine as do Google, Netflix and YouTube, among others. They already make huge profits, profits so large that they can buy domination of government. We need to act NOW to put the public interest first and prevent the plutocrats from invading our Internet commons where we have been free to communicate and create.

The FCC is being Driven off Track

When President Obama ran for office, his position was the opposite of what is now being proposed by the FCC Chairman. In April 2008 during his presidential campaign, Barack Obama took the side of the people saying:

The most important thing we can probably do is to preserve the diversity that’s emerging through the Internet…something called net neutrality. I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.”

The New Yorker, in “Good-Bye Net Neutrality, Hello Discrimination,” points out how at a 2008 Iowa forum Obama explained:

What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites … And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.

Obama was right when he campaigned, but he has made the FCC into an illegitimate plutocratic agency that is doing the opposite of what he promised. In essence, he campaigned telling the people what they wanted to hear, but as the President, he has governed for the mega-corporations.

Every current member of the FCC was appointed by Obama and confirmed by the Democratic Party controlled senate. This is Obama’s FCC.

When President Obama appointed Thomas Wheeler as the Chair of the FCC, it was a signal that his administration was taking the free and open Internet into a tiered Internet that favors the wealthy.  Many in the Internet freedom community expressed deep concerns about the appointment but were ignored by the Democratic-controlled Senate that confirmed Wheeler.

Wheeler represented the telecom industry in Washington, DC for decades in between stints where he was an investor who profited from the industry.  From 1979 to 1984, Wheeler headed the National Cable Television Association, now the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.  He worked in the telecom industry for 8 years where he became a millionaire, followed by taking over as head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association in 1992 until 2005. 

Wheeler went on to become a major Obama fundraiser and bundler in 2008 and 2012.  His biography page on the FCC says: “He is the only person to be selected to both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and The Wireless Hall of Fame, a fact, as President Obama joked, that made him ‘The Bo Jackson of Telecom.’” Appointing Wheeler was akin to putting the industry in charge of the future of the Internet. His recent proposal is exactly what the industry wants; and exactly what the people oppose.


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