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The Next Steps in Fighting to Save Net Neutrality

Activists project "Property of Verizon" on FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C., in opposition to Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to roll back net neutrality. (Tim Karr / Twitter)

Editor’s note: The FCC voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality. Read more here.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to significantly roll back net neutrality protections in a vote Thursday, and activists and politicians from both sides of the aisle are expressing concern and outrage.

Late Tuesday, an anonymous group of activists took aim at FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who is spearheading the effort to repeal net neutrality. Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, has long faced criticism for his corporate ties. This grievance was aired again Tuesday night as activists projected the phrase “Property of Verizon” on the wall of FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The message was ironic, given that earlier this week, video was leaked of Pai speaking at the Federal Communications Bar Association’s annual dinner. The Los Angeles Times sums up the “skit” Pai and Verizon lawyer Kathleen Grillo performed during the dinner:

“As you know,” Grillo says, “the FCC is captured by industry, but we think it is not captured enough. … We want to brainwash and groom a Verizon puppet to install as FCC chairman. Think ‘Manchurian Candidate.'”

“Awesome,” says Pai.

“So you’ll do it?”

“Absolutely.”

Numerous politicians have called for action in the face of Thursday’s vote. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced a bill last week to “save” net neutrality, although the legislation is largely viewed as symbolic because it would be practically impossible to pass ahead of Thursday’s vote. Many Democratic politicians, including Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, are ardent defenders of net neutrality—and even some of their counterparts across the aisle are speaking out.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., penned a letter to Pai urging him to delay the vote. “The Internet has been and remains a transformative tool, and I am concerned that any action you may take to alter the rules under which it functions may well have significant unanticipated negative consequences,” he wrote. “Therefore, I urge you to delay your upcoming vote and provide Congress with the opportunity to hold hearings on the net neutrality issue and to pass permanent open Internet legislation.”

Some critics allege that Pai’s office has rigged the public comment section on the FCC website by using bots to generate millions of fake comments. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday called on the FCC to delay its vote until a full investigation is held:

Even Pai’s colleagues have spoken against his plan to repeal net neutrality. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times published earlier this month, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel begged the public to “stop [the FCC] from killing net neutrality,” calling Pai’s plan “a lousy idea.”

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn offered an alternative proposal to her colleagues Tuesday (and continues to support net neutrality and question Pai’s motives on her Twitter account).

The very inventors of the internet are against Pai’s plan. Twenty pioneers, from World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, signed an open letter urging Pai to cancel Thursday’s vote.

“It is important to understand that the FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology,” they wrote. “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.”

Advocates of an open internet are considering their next move if Pai’s plan passes. Dana Floberg of the advocacy group Free Press argues that Congress must—and can—act if Pai’s rollback is successful:

While our legal team battles in the courts, we need to urge our champions in Congress to pass a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision.

That’s right. Congress has the power to restore the Net Neutrality rules we fought so hard for.

Using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can pass a resolution that would nullify the FCC’s planned repeal of the Net Neutrality rules. …

The CRA empowers Congress to review new regulations and pass a joint resolution of disapproval to overrule any recent regulations it doesn’t like. Overturning Pai’s misleadingly named “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” would be designed to leave us with the exact same Net Neutrality protections we won in 2015, based on the firm legal grounding of Title II.

Think of it as a double negative: If we repeal Pai’s repeal, we could end up right back where we started — with strong Net Neutrality rules.

Some activists are taking matters into their own hands, including Equitable Internet Initiative, a Detroit group building its own internet to enact “digital justice”:

“We need to build our own infrastructure and rethink internet service providing and access in order to reach those people who have been traditionally left out and marginalized,” activist Diana Nucera says in the video above. “It’s not just about access, it’s about building a healthy digital ecosystem.”

But before running to the nearest hardware store to start building your own network, politicians, celebrities and activists have a message: Call your representative in Congress and members of the FCC, and urge them to save net neutrality.

 

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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