What Next In The Campaign To Save The Internet?

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Above: Participants in the People’s Firewall that occupied the FCC speak at the net neutrality rally on May 15, 2014 before the Open Meeting of the FCC.

The campaign has pushed the door open, now we all have to go through it and raise our voices louder than Comcast’s lobbyists to save the people’s internet.

Submit your comment to the FCC here.  At the end of the article is suggested language you can cut and past as your comment to the FCC on their Open Internet Rules (Proceeding Number 14-28). You can also submit them via email: openinternet@fcc.gov

The next four months are going to determine the future of the Internet. Will it remain free and open with equal access to all? There are powerful corporate interests that want to profit even more than they already do from the Internet at the expense of the public interest.  But as a result of the public’s work this week, we now have an opportunity to create the Internet we want. We intend to make this a major focus of our work because the Internet is an essential tool for people to have access to information and to communicate with each other and it is central to our work. We want your advice and involvement; your creativity and activism. To win the Internet that can’t discriminate is going to require solidarity across issues and unity in our demands.

Opening The Door

Save The Internet protest camping out in front of the FCC. Photo by the Washington Post (Brian Fung for the The Washington Post)

Save The Internet protest camping out in front of the FCC. Photo by  Brian Fung for the The Washington Post.

Two weeks ago, a plan to remake the Internet into a ‘pay to play’ system, more like cable TV than like the Internet of today, was leaked. The reaction in the Internet advocacy community was furious. Hundreds of thousands of calls and emails went in to the FCC to oppose the proposed new rules. That wasn’t working, so we decided to put aside our work and increase the pressure in partnership with Fight for the Future and other Internet advocacy groups.

On May 7, we started a “People’s Firewall” encampment outside the FCC doors to protect the Internet from corporate corruption. The camp grew over the next 8 days and as more tents were set up, it became known as Occupy the FCC.

During the occupation, many employees stopped by to voice support or gave us thumbs up on their way into the building. Drivers honked their horns as they passed by and even a police bike brigade stopped and chanted support with us.

It was an amazing week that moved the FCC towards restoring the Internet to its original status as a utility that serves the public. Although there have been important changes since the proposed new rules were leaked, the leadership in the agency is so deeply influenced by big telecom companies that they are still off track.

The media has given our encampment outside the FCC, combined with the online work of many groups, credit for moving the debate. TIME Magazine was the first big outlet to report what was happening:

“The Internet has become a new public utility, many Net-neutrality advocates argue, and should be treated as such. The nation’s largest cable and phone companies fiercely oppose that idea — fearing greater regulation — and are mobilizing their lobbyists and allies on Capitol Hill to push back. “The FCC’s eighth-floor executive office has been thrown into chaos amid a mounting backlash that shut down its phone lines as a growing number of open-Internet advocates camp out in front of their office.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler poses in photo op with Open Internet sign at FCC encampment

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler poses in photo op with Open Internet sign at FCC encampment

Then, the Washington Post reported that the FCC is listening to protesters on its doorstep. The Post clearly defined our position favoring reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier and reported how one of the five commissioners, Ajit Pai, had visited the encampment.

Shortly after that the chair of the Commission visited the encampment and talked with us for about 15 minutes.  No doubt, part of Tom Wheeler’s goal was to relieve the pressure building around him and to show how he supports an open Internet. The conversation focused on how to achieve a open Internet with equal access for all. Wheeler supports a quick fix by making new rules, but these rules can be challenged or changed.

We advocated for a long-term solution of reclassifying the Net as a common carrier so that the FCC can regulate it in the public’s interest and the people can hold the agency accountable for protecting net neutrality. Chairman Tom Wheeler told us that his newest version of the proposed rule would be open to both approaches. This was a major shift from the leaked reports just a week earlier. In fact, his proposed rule on May 15 when the FCC held a public meeting included a request for comments on the correct solution: reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier, a public utility that serves all equally and allows open access to all of the Internet.

Tom Wheeler talking with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at the FCC encampment.

Tom Wheeler talking with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at the FCC encampment.

Chairman Wheeler also sharpened his comments on his desire for an open and equal Internet.  His rhetoric was close to what we say, as the New Republic wrote reporting on the Open Meeting:

“Just listening to Wheeler today, you’d have thought he was the biggest Internet freedom activist in the country. ‘If telecoms try to divide haves and have-nots, we’ll use every power to stop it,’ he said at the meeting. ‘Privileging some network users in a manner that squeezes out smaller voices is unacceptable.’”

We were also visited at the camp by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who is in her second term as an FCC Commissioner.  At the Open Meeting, Clyburn, like Wheeler, applauded the citizen action around the issue and both specifically mentioned the encampment.

Clyburn has been a consistent advocate for a free and open Internet. On the day of the Open Meeting, she reiterated that view writing: “There is no doubt that preserving and maintaining a free and open Internet is fundamental to the core values of our democratic society, and I have an unwavering commitment to its independence.”

It took millions of emails, tens of thousands of phone calls and two dozen people camping outside the FCC to push to open the door to common carrier status for the Internet. As the New Republic reported – activists seemed to have done the incredible in putting net neutrality and reclassification as a public carrier back on the agenda. Having this on the table is a major achievement. Now we must take advantage of it.

Why We Risked Arrest During the Open Meeting FCC KZ speaks as police pull on him

Despite a majority of the Commission visiting us at the encampment and showing respect for our actions, we were still compelled to take more action at the Open Meeting. Three of us stood up at the hearing to set the context for the rule making process and once again make our goals clear.

Kevin Zeese stood up first and spoke about the crisis of democratic legitimacy the country is currently facing because the people are ignored in favor of corporate interests. He argued that the commission, by failing to reclassify the Internet as a public utility, was part of this crisis in legitimacy. By caving into the interest of Comcast and other telecom companies, the FCC was putting their profits ahead of what is best for the country.

Margaret Flowers being removed from the meeting Thursday at the Federal Communications Commission's headquarters. Credit Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

Margaret Flowers being removed from the meeting Thursday at the Federal Communications Commission’s headquarters. Credit Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

Margaret Flowers pointed out how the Internet was part of the public commons that it had been developed by public dollars and should remain part of the commons by reclassifying the Net as a common carrier. She also pointed out that the Internet was the forum for Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century and we did not want that diminished by corporate interests.

Ken Ashe of Veterans for Peace told the commissioners he swore an oath to defend and protect the Constitution from both internal and external threats; and that the actions of the Commission were a threat to the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech in the 21st Century. He pointed out that thousands had died to protect these freedoms and the vets would challenge the FCC if it sought to undermine them. When a police officer told him he could be arrested, Ashe said that “threats of arrest do not intimidate me.”

Ken Ash pf Veterans for Peace is removed from hearing on May 15, 2014

Ken Ashe 0f Veterans for Peace is removed from hearing on May 15, 2014

All three of us were grabbed by the police and escorted from the room.  None of us were arrested, we believe because over the course of a week of camping outside of the FCC the police and commissioners had developed respect for us.  They knew we were serious about protecting the public interest.

During the week, many FCC employees, including their security, showed support for our goal of an open and equal Internet. Every day we were outside the FCC passing out literature, holding signs and talking to employees. One of the materials we shared was a flier urging people to be whistleblowers and let the public know of undue corporate interest over the proceedings.

Next Steps In Our Campaign To Save The Internet

The progress we have made before the rule was announced is not enough.  We still have to convince a majority of the commissioners to put the public interest first, reclassify the Internet as a common carrier and put Net Neutrality in the law. We believe this is a winnable conflict but it requires everyone who uses the Internet to demand common carrier classification.

Over the next four months we must all educate people about this issue and organize so we are mobilized and are taking action. Of course, we need to participate in the public comment process to let the FCC know through official channels that we want the Internet treated as a public utility that is regulated in the public interest. We hope to see a flood of public comments and will be helping people comment through Popular Resistance.

We don’t think that is enough. Our goal should be to develop a national consensus that changes the political culture of the country so that there is overwhelming support for the view that the Internet is something that should operate as a public utility such as water and electricity.  The role of Comcast and other telecoms should merely be to provide the wire to the web, but that is all. They should not be creating a system that serves the wealthiest corporations differently than it serves the people.  It should be more like a library – everyone can take a book out, but nobody is able to reserve a better copy because of their wealth.

Oscar, Ted and Emily stand in front of FCC entrance at the encampment.

Oscar, Ted and Emily stand in front of FCC entrance at the encampment.

So, how do we change the political culture?  What actions outside of the rulemaking process can we take to make the reality we want to see becomes an inevitable reality? How do we make it impossible for the FCC to ignore the will of the people on this essential First Amendment issue of the 21st Century?

We want your ideas. We know that the thinking of many are more powerful than the minds of a few. Since this is something that affects everyone, anyone with ideas should share them. Some of our questions: What can be done at FCC’s around the country (there are 27 of them)? What can we do nationally together – on days of action? What can we do in Washington, DC? How do we best focus on the individuals involved? Should we focus on Members of Congress? The White House? Commissioners – especially the chair?

Submit your ideas by putting a comment on this article, here. Not only do we want your suggestions, we encourage you to take autonomous action. We urge you to organize actions on your own, suggest actions and join actions. We truly believe this is an opportunity for people to step up and show leadership.

Keeping the Internet open with equal access for all is central to all our organizing. No matter what issue we work on, the Internet is essential for education, organizing and mobilizing people as well as developing national consensus around the critical issues of our times.

Video of the Rally to Save the Internet held at the FCC on May 15, 2014

Take Action Now

Below is suggested language that you can copy and paste at the link below or edit to more fully reflect your views.

I urge you to scrap the rules proposed on May 15, 2014 and instead restore the principle of online nondiscrimination by reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service and putting in place rules for real net neutrality.

The rules you have proposed would allow discrimination online. Telecom giants likeComcast, AT&T and Verizon would be able to pick winners and losers and discriminate against online content and applications.  It would give them the ability to implement pay-for-priority schemes that would be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls.

You say you want an open Internet without tiers based on fees, but the court has made it clear you can ONLY accomplish that by reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier. This reclassification is consistent with what the Internet is: a public utility where people get on the Internet and can go anywhere they want, there is equality of access to all sites and all sites are treated equally.  The law should reflect reality; and the rules should preserve not only an open Internet but one that is equal and does not discriminate. Put into place real net neutrality.

Submit your comment to the FCC on their Open Internet Rules (Proceeding Number 14-28here.  You can also submit them via email: openinternet@fcc.gov.

  • Jon

    Obey the law of divide and conquer. Find large corporate entities who agree with our position–likely in the media, possibly some financial institutions, and others whose core interests do not include a two-tier internet citizenship.and win them over to overtly side with us on this matter against their obstructionist colleagues. Then get them to speak out publicly!

  • Instead of just targeting the FCC, target the corporations that are in favor of killing net neutrality: Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. Smaller telecoms need to step up and come out for net neutrality. Some of them will buy out your old contract.

  • damspam

    I still don’t think many people understand how badly we will be gouged and how degraded our online world will become if we lose net neutrality.

  • nick quinlan

    In the end, corporations will get what they want, like they always do. And the public masses will get screwed again, like we always do. For PROFIT and CENSORSHIP. Where is the voice of “I will take a back seat to no one on the issue of net neutrality” Obama, the master of lies and deceit?

  • R Evans

    Silicon Valley VC and Angel funds, perhaps?

    The internet-based startups they fund won’t necessarily be able to afford the buy-in price of a non-neutral net.

  • ALEC-2 Webmaster

    Let’s have an up or down vote by We The People via the Internet to resolve the Reclassification issue. One man/woman—One vote.

  • Dane

    If this country was a real democracy, people with opposing views would not be forcefully removed from hearings when they want to be heard.

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  • Encourage all to maximize instead of degrading internet use – discussion in multiple places (far more than we currently do), and especially outside of our echo-chambers and forums on Facebook (Use their forums there on You-Tube, in on-line Magazines, and especially Twitter – during the final stages of this issue (as well as all others).

    We the people are sick and tired of fakes, so availing ourselves to be spoken to and observed over periods of time, develops trust like no other I’e seen, that and keeping it real, correcting one’s self as well as others for the sake of real concern and respect for the TRUTH above all else, both good and bad, problems and solutions (as suggested by other media majors than me). We desperately need leaders we can trust (regardless of rank), People who care enough to help others on any subject, not just one that can be mistaken for an agenda. And right now the primary leadership is PROGRESSIVE. So adopt that understanding, and become that. Show results. Follow and present what Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alan Grayson have done and are doing regularly. Use multicultural examples, multiple solutions, history, story of now, past, and future. And be PROFOUND about it. Share what is in fact profound revelations and dot connections, and try to provide not just inspiration, but EPIPHANY.

    Definitely need BOTH singular as well as group actions for calling, phone banking etc TARGET TEACHING in person or otherwise. Need NAMES REPEATED of the actual corporations investing in our silence, as well as stools planted in the FCC, Call out the good guys working among them to stand up for what they know is right. Remind them that we wont get another chance when you consider the systemic effects of being silenced on climate change, candidates, whistle-blower information, and anything else (like this petition) that you can think of.

    Make the names of those responsible known in discussion. But since there are too many critical issues to address, they need to be placed in order of when they are due to be voted on. Including if they are all bundled together. The TPP threat, Gerrymandering, Filibuster Reform, Voter Suppression, Austerity, Hell on Earth from that resulting in wars that are truly the number one cause of Climate Change (do the math on the millions of gallons of dirty deisle it takes for just one ship); yes get used to reciting the laundry-list of RELEVANT data. It shuts them up, and blows the minds of the ignorant masses. Moreover, it’s the TRUTH, so passion should not be hard to muster in reciting the cases against this damn oligarchy.

    That should be included with this and all other petitions, it’s the full evidence of the reason we are united (with specific NAMES of the decision makers, lobbyists, betraying humanity in both Government as well as Wall Street).

    I’m a Liberal but the Obama appointed heads betraying us deserve special mention here, as well as the true sources of the corporate oligarchy. The only way we are succeeding is a non-stop campaign on line, because we know that the few shows on television are just that, few, and far too few.

    On line we have created a solid community that is getting people educated. I know because I’m one of them who received it, and are giving it. So Please stop separating on line activism from hard core street pounding and calls and donations. Knowledge is power, and on line we provide all the details of an issue, including the lies, the strategies, the solutions, dates, and everything else I mentioned. Not through an impersonal newsletter, but through hard-core debate, sharing of developments on each and every issue, including the false media.

    People forget, and with all the distractions, need ‘time’ spent showing, sharing, and asking. They need to know your friends, see your activism, hear your voice through your writting as you are doing through this one and I received through your email. but not just when you want something. We desire more hands on, but the truth is that on-line is how the President got elected (twice,despite the money and the media lies, propaganda, and bias),with multiple conversations, hard links to official records proving evidence that the oligarchy can’t compete against. It takes a while but with all that the people are loosing it makes them seek, listen, and use the information to end their immediate suffering, or at least see a way out. Likely that’s why dispite all, crime came down, Fast food workers went on strike for the first time in history, won $22million dollar law suite too! Its where we show results from Nation of Change, Move On!, Daily Kos, Mother Jones, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, H-CAN, Troy Davis, and on and on. makes for a far better activists when they have the “HOLISTIC” veiw down-pat when they or we get to the street we are thoroughly and properly informed, so our words don’t sound like sound-bites, but rather a comprehensive understanding of the issues, i.e. more can ‘articulate’ the truth with passion and facts EFFECTIVELY.

    No the facts are NOT something that are negotiable (see Elizabeth Warrens win over Jerry Brown, 99% via the debates where she hammered him with calling out his lies with facts, until then she was loosing or close), passion in announcing and denouncing connections to ALEC, Monsanto, the laws they wrote, blocked, held hostage, for corporate welfare, while killing the people’s welfare – the fascist networks and their spokespersons we now call a Duopoly. Facts about the lie of the deficit, when our debt is 54% owed to our own banks!? Why are we not getting that whenever we hear that lie being pushed? When they distract or redirect attention with loud non-truth. CALL IT A FALSE-EQUIVALENCE, SPEAK OUT on the $16 Trillion in ‘stolen’ wages, $32 Trillion in un-taxed dollars, $2.4 Trillion taken and not paid back to Social Security, any one of them would be enough to eliminate poverty world wide!! Especially do it when they promote sequester and obvious austerity (what happened to the Senate brining that up?). Same for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. No this is not off subject, it’s THE subject, not isolated from any other subject, because they have declared all of these subjects as one in their actual written agenda to convert the USA into a Fascist state! We need to make better contrasts and mention those FACTUAL-TRUTHS that shock the listener into listening beyond their personal agenda, by tying their agenda into the fact of ONE agenda causing his or her symptom, and do it well enough to make the rest of us who already know say AMEN TO THAT as well! Whether soken or written, speak a holistic truth to power.

    Use this tool to go on the offensive, and join us in learning how to make them unpopular or very afraid of debating us. Yes we can do it with self-discipline and respect, but when we are done engaging the enemy, the reader or listener should be ready to explode with new dots connected on the same people consistently involved in destroying all water, food, animals, and lands (see 2/3 of the country in ‘SEVERE’ drought, while they cut firemen and women, and increase earth-quake generating Fracking, and dominate the SEVEN STATES RUNNING OUT OF WATER – how they used expert hackers to shut down sites just before the propositions that would have labelled GMO foods, how they are annihilating already burning rain-forests (where millions of cures are now estimated to be, and are as yet uncovered – major trends in finding them lately – just as the founder of western medicine Hippocrates stated exist in plants, roots, and foods) abundant in the rain-forests we target, and the shamans we kill off with our suicidal imperialism. Already contaminated USA soils / healthy habitats that would naturally create them. All this and much more I learned in a few short years on this internet. I am dirt poor.

    Note the dynamics we share pinpointing the fascist networks, invading both parties from right to left, and fast enveloping the left – including Independents, and Libertarian wannabees. If it were not so, then the press wouldn’t be following our internet lead, nor would the petition counts be increasing, nor would it now be the premier location for education, Jobs, and business start-ups. But the Knowledge being transmitted and learned, is KEY, and no rally is a relationship long enough for teaching what the masses need to learn at their own pace, or by seeing you doing it and getting results. That builds “grass roots” trust – y/our example as well as your consistency. Can’t get that from just a few rallies, sit ins, or even occupying a space (as we all learned). Not until we have an educated enough constituency, that is able to then teach as they march.

    I personally have not only doubled and tripled in my knowledge, shut down numerous liars and trolls, donated, writen, called, and demonstrated when I could (care-giver now for a severely disabled Mom / loosing my GI bill because of it, only son, isolated in a small town), but I SHOW them my donations, and writings to senators, newspapers or whoever, right there on my fb page, and or in key forums. Love to debate the trolls for the sake of the knowledge it gives all the silent listeners / readers. But also have seen many follow my thoughts, evidence (links), and actions befriend me, and join in developing an impeccable argument on all issues through the unified consciousness that has developed from truth that does not change, does not need repair-maintenance like their lies do – our success is come through relationships that have developed over time. No time left now, but a track record is strong and taking on a life of it’s own. Use it while we got it, and use it to save net neutrality itself.

    We are uniting on line in ways that we could never have the time to do in person or at a rally. But “in person” IS the icing on the newly awakened cake.

    There are literally hundreds of millions still sleep. The suggestion is that we are not engaging them in their forums (sports, games, entertainment etc). The potential is endless (see George Lakoff, and the power of social networking via TED conferences). I’m a media major, a retired Veteran, a Builder, Mentor, and Fine Artist (prodigy age 10), who didn’t just ‘travel’ the world (twice), but lived in 8 countries. Our specialty is MOTIVATION. Use the advice.

  • Amen to that!

  • Powerful and informative. Sharing links broadens knowledge that empowers all. Thank you.

  • That’s some of the very same things I mentioned, as well as it taught me something I didn’t know. Thank you. Looking up the ACT UP action. Please don’t be discouraged by others lack of acknowledgement. I find that people really are listening, and just don’t want to be perceived as ignorant. Screw them, and teach, teach, learn, learn, share, share, grow, grow, Love Life, and they ‘will’ follow if its by truth that we do so.

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  • Chelsea

    Reclassify the internet and other major forms of technology, transportation and other public entities as PUBLIC. I’m tired of corporate robots buying up everything and everyone they think they can to expand their profit margins and portfolios. Demand the support of smaller unions and corporations to fight for free and fair internet. Corporations have taken over our food, entertainment industries, the pharmaceutical industry, and more. We can not be bought. We are not for sale. Take your money and shove it!!