Newsletter – United To Save The Internet

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Above photo by Maria Merkulova for Free Press.

Ajit Pai, who now chairs the Federal Communications Commission, has taken the first official steps to destroy the free and open Internet by proposing the end of Title II net neutrality rules on May 18. This would be a giveaway to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other large Internet Service Providers that would allow them to control access to content on the Internet and charge users more fees.

ajitpaic_590Chairman Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is an example of the revolving door between government and industry  that serves big business interests, and not the people. Pai has demonstrated during his first few months as chairman that he will say anything, including obvious lies, to serve the telecom industry.

We must act quickly to save the Internet from going the road of cable TV where people can only see what they can afford. This is also an opportunity for the people to challenge corrupt corporate power and a sold out federal agency.

In the Washington Post, former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler writes, along with two US Senators:

“For as long as the Internet has existed, it has been grounded on the principle of net neutrality — that what you read, see or watch online shouldn’t be favored, blocked or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality means that cable companies can’t reserve the fastest Internet speeds for the biggest companies and leave everyone else in the slow lane. . . .That’s why it’s so alarming to see that the Federal Communications Commission, a federal agency that’s expected to help protect the Internet, is planning to roll back net neutrality rules.”

1savenet1How We Win

There is no doubt that if the people mobilize we can stop this big business take over of the Internet — but, as John Eggerton writes,  people must mobilize or we will lose it. This is an issue that connects all of us and all political issues as the Internet is an essential tool for education, organization and mobilization.

We began the campaign to protect our Internet by going to Ajit Pai’s neighborhood. It is important to highlight that he is the one driving this process. We delivered door hangers to his neighbors. Then we held a four-day peaceful vigil on the sidewalk at the end of his driveway. We had an overwhelmingly positive response from his neighbors and people driving by. Many neighbors came out to speak with us, said they supported net neutrality and brought their children to learn about the issue. On May 16, we protested in front of the FCC by trashing computers to demonstrate that without the Internet, our computers are useless.

fcctrashHere are our next tasks:

Make Pai’s corporate giveaway politically toxic so politicians of both parties in power are forced to intervene on behalf of the people. Politicians need to know that the people are angry that the Internet is being destroyed and that those who do not work to protect it will pay a heavy political price. We need phone calls, emails, petitions, sit-ins, protests at their offices and town halls.

Highlight Ajit Pai’s ties to the telecom industry and how the policies he puts in place now will reward him with a multi-million dollar annual income when he returns to it. His self interest should not come before his duty to represent the public interest. Harold Feld, who has covered Internet policy for 20 years, outlines the ways in which Pai is acting like he is still a Verizon lawyer. Pai needs to be made personally into someone with whom no politician wants to be associated.

Point out the constant false statements being put forward by Pai. While he says the opposite, Title II net neutrality rules are essential for a fair market because they allow the Davids to challenge the Goliaths. To keep the Internet a place of innovation, creativity and economic activity, everyone must be able to go wherever they want to go on the Internet, put up websites with the same speeds and service as big business sites and compete. The net neutrality rules of 2015 created record investment in the Internet; upending them will create confusion and derail investment. Pai is even lying about advocates of net neutrality such as Free Press and Popular Resistance.

34701698206_d17fe284dd_zHighlight the critical importance of the Internet remaining free and equal for all with no discrimination for diversifying media and opening up political dialogue. Commercial media is concentrated in the hands of six corporations, now ISP’s like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are buying commercial media (e.g. Comcast owns NBC, AT&T is buying CNN). Without net neutrality, ISPs will be able to control what people see on the Internet by prioritizing their content and minimizing other voices. There is a growing number of independent and non-profit media outlets, as well as social media, that diversify our sources of information. Non-commercial media coverage has been critical for the Black Lives Matter movement, Occupy, Fight for $15, and other efforts to organize. The anonymous leaking of documents to show people what governments and corporations are doing is only possible with an open Internet.

Comment on the proposed FCC rule. Tell the FCC to keep Title II net neutrality rules. John Oliver explains the issue in this monologue, which resulted in 1.6 million comments being sent in to the FCC (hundreds of thousands came from pro-repeal groups that used bots to steal people’s identities and submit comments, but Pai has not denounced this violation of the law and privacy). However, the rule making did not start until this week, so people need to comment now.  Click here for simple step-by-step instructions to submit a comment. In the 2014/15 campaign 3.7 million people commented, almost all for Title II net neutrality. We need to break that record this time.

Net neutrality protesting outside of Ajit Pai's home on May 14, 2017. By Anne Meador, DC Media Group.

Net neutrality protesting outside of Ajit Pai’s home on May 14, 2017. By Anne Meador, DC Media Group.

Even people who oppose regulation of business will support keeping Title II net neutrality once they understand it. Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, opposes regulation in general but, he points out that to keep competition we need net neutrality because ISP’s have become regional monopolies. More than 60% of people have only one choice of an ISP. Lee says we have a choice — regulate ISP’s or break them up so there is competition and everyone has multiple choices to get on the Internet. Instead of breaking up ISP’s Pai is allowing mergers, not only of the Internet providers but also of media outlets and ISP’s with Internet providers. Pai is going in the wrong direction, creating more monopolies and putting no restraints on them. We can be sure that monopolies will rip-off the people.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

The Internet has become woven into all aspects of life: finding a job, getting healthcare, advancing in education, starting a business, engaging in political discourse, entertainment and more. It is a source for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. The campaign to save the Internet should be a priority for everyone.

Flickr/ Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten

Flickr/ Arbeitskreis Vorratsdaten

Removal of Title II net neutrality will give Comcast and other ISP’s the power to prevent you from going to various websites, allow them to give preference to websites and allow them to charge people tolls to go to the sites they want to visit or to create websites with fast service. ISP’s can preference corporations they own or give preference to big business interests that can pay them more money for faster service. This dramatic shift will end the Internet as a source of innovation and turn it into a source of monetization for telecom companies.

34577005232_61a44fdf2b_zLoss of net neutrality will do the most damage to people living in poor and working class communities. It will worsen inequality, as Mike Whitney describes in this report on the digital divide. Net neutrality is part of a broader attack by Pai on Internet justice. He says that he cares about media justice, but in reality he is taking steps that will expand the digital divide. For example, Pai is trying to make it harder for low-income families to access affordable high-speed Internet. And, he is making the Internet more expensive for everyone, e.g. Pai backed out of a proposal to free people from having to rent expensive cable boxes.

We have only a short time to reverse this proposal to take net neutrality away.

Take action now: Click here to submit a comment to the FCC.

Write to your member of Congress and spread the word. We will also have to take this fight to the streets and the doors of the FCC. Sign up at ProtectOurInternet.org to stay informed of upcoming actions.