In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission put rules in place to maintain the ideal of “net neutrality,” the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic equally, irrespective of content. By treating high-speed internet access as a Title II Utility, like electricity or landline phone service, the FCC prohibited ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing access to particular sites. With the transition of presidential administrations from Obama to Trump, new FCC head Ajit Pai has been pushing to repeal or reverse these decisions.
Pai, a Trump appointee, proposed in an April speech a return to treating the Internet as an information service rather than a public utility, a move that would limit FCC regulation. In May, Pai voted to replace the net neutrality rules, arguing that removing regulations would boost investments in new technologies.
On Wednesday, more than 80,000 websites, including Amazon, Google, FaceBook, Netflix, and Spotify, participated in a “Day of Action,” an online protest against these attempts to roll back net neutrality organized by Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that works to protect internet access, censorship, and privacy. Meanwhile, in the world outside the net, Democrats rallied outside the Capitol to show their support.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said, “Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it ends. It’s just that simple.” Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, said “The goal of the protest…is to ensure that ordinary people have a voice and are heard by decision-makers in Washington, D.C. No one, regardless of their political affiliation, wants their cable company to control what they can see and do on the Internet, or to charge extra fees to access the content they want.”
Campaign participants posted banners on their websites denouncing the FCC’s plans, sent emails, and used social media to urge people to submit comments to the FCC, which is collecting a first round of feedback on the proposed rollback until August 17th. The campaign also encouraged people to visit their local congressional offices.
Greer said, “We see this as a broader fight, a grassroots movement we’re building to show that the Internet as an institution has its own political power.”—Cyndi Suarez