More than 80,000 websites including tech giants such as Google, Amazon, and many others are gearing up for an online protest today – being touted as the “Day of Action” – in support of net neutrality which the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is apparently committed to doing away with.
The protest involves the coming together of tens of thousands of online activists and businesses, big and small, to inform users about the Trump administration’s plans to hand over control of how we access the internet today to a handful of service providers.
The proposed rollback of the net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, will give too much power to ISPs (Internet Service Providers) such as Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and Charter who will be able to determine and control what users can see online, and at what price and speed.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that financially strong companies, capable of paying higher premium to these ISPs, will be given preference over lesser entities – so to speak – in terms of speedier access to their domains and other related advantages.
What’s worse is that the service providers will be in a position to even block or slow down data of rivals with the purpose of hurting them – in a business sense, of course – or with the unethical intention of easing competition for affiliated websites – read paying websites.
The concept of net neutrality faced its first real challenge in May when the FCC voted in favor of repealing/reversing the Internet neutrality law passed under the previous government. The FCC, by the way, is headed by Trump appointee Ajit Pai who, with a majority, is moving aggressively toward repealing the rule against Internet interference by ISPs.
July 17, has been set as the deadline for incoming comments and already half a billion comments on the issue have been received by FCC.
“We’re trying to make it easier for real people to comment and make their voices heard,” said Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future. “Ajit Pai has made it clear he has no interest in listening to the public. He’s listening to the cable companies and plans to give them what they want.”
Fight for the Future is a non-profit advocacy group and one of the organizers of today’s protest.
Democratic senators Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Brian Schatz, of Hawaii, who are in favor of the net neutrality rule in place now, asked the FCC to ensure its computer system was prepared to handle the deluge of comments expected.
It would appear that the FCC is simply going through the motions of ‘comments and deadlines’ in view of the statements coming from supporters of the anti-net-neutrality move.
Berin Szoka of TechFreedom, a policy group that supports the FCC proposal, said in an interview that the protests were “not going to stop the FCC.”
“Their entire agenda is simply to jump up and down at the FCC, and jump up and down on the Hill, and try to obstruct a legislative deal,” Szoka said.
AT&T, however, appears to have suddenly changed its stance on the neutrality issue stating in a blog post on Tuesday that it will join the “day of action” with TV and print advertisements.
“We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner,” Bob Quinn, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in the post. “So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open Internet.”
The organizers of the “Day of Action” are not buying, though. “This is so ridiculous I’m laughing out loud,” Greer said in an e-mail when asked his reaction, reports thestar.com. “AT&T and other companies like Comcast and Verizon have waged an all out war on net neutrality protections because they want to be able to charge Internet users and startups extra fees, and squeeze all of us for more money for less Internet.”
The online businesses/websites taking part in the protest will reportedly display eye-catching messages on their home pages urging users to protest to the Congress and FCC. Some sample messages circulated by the organizing committee warn, ““this site has been blocked” and “we’re stuck in the slow lane.”
Here are some tweets from liberals protesting the change being sought by Ajit Pai.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy
“Ending #netneutrality would allow Internet providers to slow certain websites or charge more for preferential service.”
Minnesota Senator Al Franken
“The @FCC wants to get rid of the rules that protect #netneutrality. That’s a threat to destroy the Internet as we know it,”
In Evan Greer’s own words, “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.”