Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission released its final plan to kill off the net neutrality policies put in place by Barack Obama. It did this just days before a major national holiday in the United States, and is giving the public just three weeks to react before the rollback will be voted on. But that timing hasn’t stifled the early response.
To start, BattleForTheNet.com, a virtual meeting ground that’s been put together by free internet advocacy groups and nonprofits, is reporting a surge in the number of phone calls that it’s helped direct to Congress. Almost 400,000 calls have been made this week, according to the website, with 270,000 of those coming in the last 24 hours alone.
Over at Change.org, seven new petitions in support of net neutrality have been started up in the last two days, and older ones (like “Protect Net Neutrality From the Trump Administration”) have gained thousands of new signatures this week. Currently, Change.org logs 21 petitions related to net neutrality.
Reddit is flush with posts calling people to action, with top posters listing emails and phone numbers for members of both the FCC and Congress and offering scripts for people who need a bit of guidance. This is happening across subreddits, too — r/trebuchetmemes is calling people to action, someone at r/KerbalSpaceProgram planted a protest flag on a virtual moon in the spacefaring video game, and it’s even dividing the users who frequent r/The_Donald.
Meanwhile, organizers are trying to focus the groundswell into visible action in meatspace. Protests at Verizon stores around the country have been scheduled for December 7th — FCC chairman and author of the proposal Ajit Pai was once a lawyer for Verizon — and some Redditors are separately organizing one in front of the FCC headquarters on December 13th.
The proposed rollback of net neutrality protections has drawn ire from a number of companies and public figures. Facebook, Google, and Netflix have all issued statements in favor of the existing rules, while a group of more than 1,000 startups has published an open letter to Pai asking him to focus on new policies instead of dismantling regulations.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau this week said he was “very concerned” about the plan in an interview with Motherboard. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman published a letter of his own on Medium where he claims the FCC dismissed concerns raised by an investigation he ran that found that the public comment process “was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules.”
Elected representatives are speaking out, too. Tulsi Gabbard, a Congresswoman in Hawaii, released a statement accusing Pai of “rewarding pay-to-play politics.” California senator Kamala Harris is collecting signatures in support of the existing rules in her own state.
And last evening, Jessica Rosenworcel, who currently serves on the FCC, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled “I’m on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality.”
“It’s a lousy idea. And it deserves a heated response from the millions of Americans who work and create online every day,” Rosenworcel wrote. She went on to argue that, despite the major effort that Americans have already put in over the last few years fighting for a free and open internet, this new challenge needs to be met with the same fervor. “I think the FCC needs to work for the public, and therefore that this proposal needs to be slowed down and eventually stopped. In the time before the agency votes, anyone who agrees should do something old-fashioned: Make a ruckus.”