Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Protesters rally outside of Time Warner Cable Headquarters in New York Monday, February 23. (Photo courtesy of Media Action Grassroots Network)

Protesters rally outside of Time Warner Cable Headquarters in New York Monday, February 23. (Photo courtesy of Media Action Grassroots Network)

Net Neutrality Activists Take Civil Rights Fight to Doorsteps of Telecom Giants

Rallies sweep country as fight for net neutrality heats up ahead of FCC vote

Sarah Lazare

In the lead-up to the FCC's pivotal net neutrality vote on Thursday, civil rights and media justice organizations across the United States are taking their demands for an open internet to the store-fronts of the telecommunications giants that continue to aggressively fight the protections.

In partnership with the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-net), local organizations began rallying last week to bring the call "Don't Block My Internet" to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner. Notable actions have already taken place in numerous cities—including Berkeley, California; Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; and San Antonio, Texas—with more slated for the coming days.

"Net neutrality is a life and death issue for black Americans,"
—E. Martel Miller, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

"The Internet has become the place where we tell our stories, where we are not only the consumers of content, but also the creators," said Andrea Figueroa of the San Antonio-based Martinez Street Women's Center in a press statement. "Communities of color, the LGBT community, those focused on workers rights, small businesses, artists, youth, etc. have a lot at stake if net neutrality is not preserved."

"Our voices would be stifled," Figueroa continued, "and as communities still fighting to achieve equity, we have to tell the telecom lobbyists that the internet must stay open, and that our voices can be louder than their dollars."

"Net neutrality is a life and death issue for black Americans," said E. Martel Miller, Board Member of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. "For example, in 2011, police officers here in Champaign, Illinois choked and pepper sprayed a young African American man as he was handcuffed in the back of a squad car. The public had no knowledge this happened until months later when I leaked the squad car video and put it on our news site."

"It was seen by over 30,000 outraged viewers in a few days," Miller continued. "The Chief of Police, who had overseen police abuse of our community for a decade, was gone within a month."

Malkia Cyril, executive director for the Center for Media Justice (which oversees MAG-Net), told Common Dreams that a civil rights strategy plays a critical role in the push for an open internet.

"The most important thing is these actions are led by communities of color and poor people, because we recognize that net neutrality rules are the civil rights rules for the internet," said Cyril. "The Black Lives Matter movement, the fight against mass deportation, and the struggle for a fair wage—these fights are happening online and inspiring offline action."

 As the actions sweep the country this week, the fight for an open internet is heating up.

"The most important thing is these actions are led by communities of color and poor people, because we recognize that net neutrality rules are the civil rights rules for the internet."
—Malkia Cyril, Center for Media Justice

The FCC is slated to hold a vote on Thursday over a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler to reclassify the internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, a move that would help protect net neutrality from corporate efforts to create slow and fast lanes based on ability to pay.

Grassroots groups have pressed vigorously for the reclassification, which they hope will help reverse more than a decade of government and court failures to proactively protect the internet, including a federal appeals court ruling last January which tossed out the FCC's Open Internet Order passed in 2010.

Wheeler is widely believed to have the votes needed to pass the proposal, yet this has not stopped the telecommunications industry from launching what journalist Tony Romm calls a "lobbying bonanza." Meanwhile, Republican members of the FCC have launched an effort to delay—and undermine—the vote.

Open internet advocates—millions of whom have spoken up in favor of net neutrality protections—say they are hopeful that the FCC will pass the new regulations. The fact that the fight for net neutrality has gotten this far shows "the power that we have to raise our voices," Rashad Robinson of said on a press call Tuesday.

However, Cyril advised that, whatever the outcome of the vote, the fight will continue.

"After this vote, I am certain that internet service providers will attempt legal action and members of Congress will put forward legislation, and that legislation will be in the interests of ISPs," said Cyril. "We are still going to have a battle on our hands, but this vote gives us a tool to fight for our rights and voices."

Updates and commentary on the ongoing rallies can be followed on Twitter:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·

'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·

80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo