A concerned public is demanding that the Federal Communications Commission refuse to bow down to a judicial blow to internet freedom dealt earlier this month.
One million petitions backed by a coalition of over 80 organizations — including Free Press, Prometheus Radio Project, and the American Civil Liberties Union — call for the FCC to "protect the open internet" and "reassert its clear authority over our nation’s communications infrastructure."
Petitioners say this can be accomplished by reclassifying broadband services as "telecommunications services" — a move that would subject them to regulations that protect net neutrality.
A federal appeals court struck down the FCC's Open Internet Order earlier this month, siding with a challenge from telecom giant Verizon. Loss of net neutrality protections, which require that Internet Service Providers treat all online content the same, would allow corporations like AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable to block and censor internet content and tamper with traffic — giving the advantage to the highest bidders.
Critics charge this would make the internet an even more uneven playing field.
"The court's decision to kill open Internet rules will have a detrimental impact on communities of color and other marginalized groups," reads a statement by Media Action Grassroots Network. "It will force small organizations and businesses to compete with the biggest websites, will set a price point that many can't afford, and expand an almost uncrossable digital divide."
For many, that divide already exists.
"In Philadelphia, at least a third of our residents don't have access to broadband in their homes," said Hannah Sassaman, policy director for Media Mobilizing Project, in an interview with Common Dreams. "This lack of access already limits their abilities to tell stories for change, and to hear the voices of other community members struggling with the same issues."
"If we lose the principle of net neutrality, poor and working people may find that their access to information and to each others' voices is even more curtailed," Sassaman added. "Chairman Wheeler has the power to act now to protect and expand an open internet for millions of poor and working people in America."
"The FCC has the power to defend our right to communicate online, and to protect the public from predatory business practices from giant ISPs determined to invent new ways to charge us even more for even less,” said Color of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “Chairman Wheeler must take action now to reverse a decade of failed policies built on industry giveaways, and reclassify broadband so corporate gatekeepers like Verizon and Comcast don't get to determine whose voices are heard and whose are silenced.”