Protest In Hungary Over Internet Tax Is A Warning To FCC

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Above: Protesters held their phones aloft during the protest in Budapest Sunday night. (Photo: euronews)

The slogan of the Hungarian Internet protest is “Delete the Elite”

Note: The Federal Communication Commission should be concerned when they see the video below of protests in Hungary over an Internet tax.  People are throwing computer parts at the headquarters of the ruling party. Protests tend to spread rapidly in the Internet age — note how the Hungary protests are similar to the Hong Kong students holding their lit cell phones in the air (the Hong Kong Chinese did so for non-Internet, pro-democracy reasons).Hungarian light protest on Internet 10-27-14

The Hungarian protest highlights how a simple thing such as an Internet tax will prevent people from having access to the Internet, particularly in low income and rural areas, and will stifle innovation and the economy. This is exactly what will happen in the US if the Internet is not reclassified under Title II and we lose net neutrality. Title II is necessary to ensure equal access to the Internet with no discrimination. The Wheeler proposal of a tiered Internet based on fees will begin the process of inequality on the Internet by giving the wealthiest businesses a major advantage over start-ups and smaller Internet websites and services. The tiered Interned will undermine the democratization of mass communication by undermining citizen and independent media and give more power to corporate media.

The Hungarians also connect this issue with corruption and are seeking democracy. Again the parallels are striking. The United States also has corruption and a crisis of democracy. How dare the FCC Commissioners not listen to 4 million public comments in the rulemaking process on the future of the Internet and ignore millions of phone calls, emails and petitions prior to the rulemaking process even beginning. Chairman Tom Wheeler, should feel particular pressure because of his background as the former top lobbyist for the industry, a history which carries the stench of the widespread corruption that defines Washington, DC governance.

Internet protest Hungary throwing computer 10-27-14

President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler knowing that he was a captain of the industry. Remember that Obama campaigned heavily in support of net neutrality.  The Democrats cannot afford to lose their Internet base by allowing the commodification of the Internet and starting the nation on the path toward cable TV-like Internet service, rather than treating the Internet as a public good.

There should be anger at both of them for threatening to break the Internet by turning it into a play-to-pay service that benefits big business.

A protest in Washington, DC like the ones in Hong Kong and Belgrade where net neutrality supporters rally at the White House in the evening with cell phone lights and then march to the FCC holding their lit cell phones would create strong images and excite the net neutrality base. This could be followed by a second protest where people throw computer parts at the FCC. Everyone probably has old computers and phones that no longer work. A protest throwing broken computers and phones at the FCC during work hours would send a message to the Commissioners and decision makers, that the people have spoken and they should listen. Then, to make a longer lasting image, an artist-activist can take the broken computer pieces and turn it into art work. Right — we are a nation “of, by and for the people” — aren’t we?

Broken computers turned into artwork. By @MurphyPeterN

Broken computers turned into artwork. By @MurphyPeterN

Such actions would send a message to the political establishment in Washington, DC that their democratic legitimacy will be under severe attack if they do not reclassify the Internet as a public utility to ensure no discrimination. President Obama and Congress as well as the 2016 candidates would also take a lesson from such protests. The slogan of the Hungarian Internet protest is “Delete the Elite.” An escalation of protest, learning from the Hungarian and Hong Kong activists, may be the direction we need to go in order to make it a political third rail to be against the net neutrality movement.

When we starting organizing the Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza we were inspired by the occupations in Arab nations, Spain, Greece and Madison, Wisconsin. Now, we are inspired by Hungary and Hong Kong.

KZ and MF

Watch the Euronews video of the protest below:

Holding Computers Aloft, Thousands March in Budapest Against Anti-Democratic Internet Tax

‘Those who use the Internet see more of the world, that’s why the government doesn’t want a free Internet,’ organizer says

Thousands of protesters—more than 10,000, according to some reports—took to the streets of Budapest on Sunday, denouncing a proposed tax on Internet use they say is anti-democratic and discriminates against Hungary’s poor.

Demonstrators gave the Hungarian government 48 hours to scrap the planned tax of 62 cents per gigabyte of data, which they see as an attempt by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to restrict freedom of information.

The protesters held their cell phones in the air, calling for ‘Free Internet!’ and ‘Free Hungary!’ Some threw old computer equipment against the locked gates of the ruling Fidesz party’s headquarters. Organizers vowed to protest again on Tuesday if their demands were not met.

Orban, who took office in 2010 and was re-elected in April, “has been accused of flirting with authoritarianism,” according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Organizers told AFP they believe the tax is aimed at restricting government critics who mainly use online media, and that it would “hurt small businesses and make it harder for people, particularly in poor areas, to access information and educational material.”

“Those who use the Internet see more of the world, that’s why the government doesn’t want a free Internet,” organizer Balazs Gulyas told the crowd. “We’re not going to pay an Internet tax to a corrupt tax authority.”

In response to the rally, the Fidesz party said it would cap the tax, but organizers saidprotests would continue until the tax is eliminated entirely.

Their grievances go beyond the proposed levy. “It is not only because of the Internet tax,” one woman told Euronews, “but we are also fed up with the government, we are fed up with stealing and corruption.”