Don’t let anyone tell you that fighting for net neutrality isn’t a contact sport.
Two Internet freedom activists were reportedly tackled to the ground Tuesday as they interrupted a press conference held by Ajit Pai, one of the five voting commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission. Pai is one of two commissioners who opposes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to save net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.
The activists came from Popular Resistance, a group that has no qualms about getting in the government’s face. Popular Resistance members previously protested at Wheeler’s home, and they recently livened up C-SPAN by storming a congressional hearing on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Pai’s press conference was live-streamed, although not heavily watched. Multiple sources who watched the livestream noted that the two activists were quickly and aggressively escorted out by security. The activists held a banner that read, “85% of Republican voters support net neutrality,” a reference to the findings of a Nov. 2014 poll.
Despite the interests of their constituents, congressional Republicans are spearheading a campaign to stop the FCC’s Title II reclassification, incorrectly claiming that it is somehow akin to National Security Agency surveillance.
A spokesperson for Pai’s office would not comment on the exact nature of the protesters’ violent removal but did say that “they stood up and started screaming” and “you’re certainly not allowed to do that.”
We wanted to get across that Commissioner Pai was still acting like the Verizon lawyer he used to be and not as a commissioner serving the public interest. Even Republicans do not agree with him. The banner we attempted to unfurl said: 85% of Republican Voters Support Net Neutrality.
Politicians who follow Pai’s lead will be selling out their voting base for a few giant corporations. Not only their base but small and medium sized businesses, start-up companies and entrepreneurs who need equal access to the Internet. They will get Silicon Valley and people who use the Internet against them by undermining net neutrality.
Why do people who care about business support net neutrality? Because people want a level playing field where everyone has equal access. They do not want an Internet dominated by crony capitalism on behalf of a few mega corporations who purchase influence in Washington, DC.
Republicans would be wise not to get on the wrong side of the Internet. They will pay a heavy political price if they do.