Amid concerns that the Trump administration is gearing up to "destroy the internet as we know it" by rolling back net neutrality rules, activists from across the United States are descending on the nation's capital Wednesday to demand that lawmakers protect the web from the pernicious influence of massive telecom companies.
"Wherever you go, you can feel the energy and enthusiasm for net neutrality."
—Mary Alice Crim, Free PressThe day of advocacy comes as a new Consumer Reports survey shows that public opinion is firmly on the side of the coalition of net neutrality advocacy groups known as "Team Internet," which helped organized Wednesday's event: 57 percent of Americans "support the current net neutrality regulations that ban ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful content on the internet," and 67 percent "said that ISPs shouldn't be allowed to choose which websites, apps, or streaming services their customers can access."
Only 16 percent sided with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai, a vociferous opponent of net neutrality.
"Wherever you go, you can feel the energy and enthusiasm for net neutrality," Mary Alice Crim, field director of the Free Press Action Fund, said in a statement. "Students, doctors, software engineers, lawyers, and more are volunteering their time because they want a free and open internet."
Over 60 of these volunteers from all over the country are taking this enthusiasm to Washington, D.C., where they plan to meet directly with members of Congress Wednesday to demand that the rights of consumers be prioritized over the profits of large telecommunications companies.
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Mark Stanley, director of operations and communications at Demand Progress, noted that he has over the last several months seen an "unprecedented number of activists take time out of their busy lives to meet with lawmakers and their staff" on net neutrality, which he said is "vital for civil discourse" and the democratic process.
"There are so many crucial issues people are engaging in right now, from healthcare to organizing against the phaseout of DACA to advocating for racial justice," Stanley concluded. "At the end of the day, folks know if their free speech is curtailed because we don't have strong net neutrality protections, organizing on these issues will be extremely difficult."
"The companies trying to kill net neutrality are spending millions on lobbyists who are hitting the Hill constantly to spread fear and misinformation."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the FutureWednesday's targeted day of action is part of a broader movement to save net neutrality that has intensified since the massive internet-wide event in July, during which at least 125,000 websites, organizations, and individuals expressed support for the open internet and opposition to Trump's plan to destroy it.
As Common Dreams reported last month, the FCC has been deluged with a record 22 million comments on its plan to roll back net neutrality rules, which were established in 2015. With the FCC now at full staff, groups have warned that net neutrality is under greater threat than ever and have called on consumers to organize and fight back.
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement that mass mobilization is necessary to ensure that the needs of the public are "heard over the noise of the telecom lobby."
"The companies trying to kill net neutrality are spending millions on lobbyists who are hitting the Hill constantly to spread fear and misinformation," Greer said. "Internet users, entrepreneurs, and small business owners have such critically important stories to tell about how Title II net neutrality protections directly impact their basic rights and their ability to put food on the table."
"If we don't stop the FCC from allowing blocking, throttling, and charging new fees online," concluded Fight for the Future organizer Laila Abdelaziz, "we stand to lose so much of our freedom and power."