Washington’s Holiday Dirty Work
December is a busy time because it is when Washington often does its worst dirty work. This is evident in Congress members’ current efforts to ram through an unjust tax bill that will worsen the severe wealth inequality and bring higher levels of poverty and economic insecurity in the United States. It is also evident in the rush to confirm Alex Azar, a representative of Big Pharma, as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.
A critical fight in the next two weeks is net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is scheduled to vote to dismantle net neutrality on December 14 at its public hearing. This effort, led by Verizon lawyer and current FCC chair Ajit Pai, is likely to succeed unless we escalate our actions leading up to the vote. Even one of the sitting FCC commissioners is asking for the public to stop the FCC from passing Pai’s plan.
Net neutrality is fundamental. The Internet has become an integral part of our lives and critical for Freedom of Speech and political organizing in the 21st Century. William Rivers Pitt places the access to unlimited information over the Internet in the context of human evolution. Pitt adds,
“If the FCC overturns net neutrality, huge multinational corporations like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast will essentially be able to decide who gets to see what online, and for an unregulated fee. Worse, Title II of the Telecommunications Act gives the FCC what is called universal service authority, which grants it the power to make sure everyone in the US has access to the network. Remove Title II, which is central to the plan, and that availability will wither with no legal oversight.”
Access to information threatens the existence of power holders. That is another reason, on top of the profits to be made, for them to want to get rid of net neutrality. Already, websites that challenge the status quo, like Popular Resistance, are being suppressed by Google’s search engine. Andre Damon explains that ending net neutrality will allow “the internet monopolies Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon full ability to block, throttle and promote internet traffic at will.”
Next Steps to Save the Internet
A large coalition of organizations worked together in 2014 and 2015 to win net neutrality. That coalition came together again this year after Pai announced his plans. Activity in favor of net neutrality is rapidly growing and the coalition is expanding through the efforts of thousands of concerned people. Together, we are having an impact.
The issue of net neutrality spans the political spectrum; people on the right are also expressing concern over its possible loss. On Cyber Monday, major businesses sent a letter to the FCC in support of net neutrality, saying that the Internet and businesses have thrived since it was implemented in 2015. This week, Reddit revamped its home page in support of net neutrality and users posted about members of Congress who received donations from the telecoms, mocking them for the sums that buy their silence over an issue that voters care about deeply.
Here is a list of actions you can take to save net neutrality:
1. Visit BattlefortheNet.com to contact your member of Congress. Congress can pressure the FCC to slow or stop the vote. Spread the word to others and encourage them to call too. Already, over 700,000 have called.
2. On December 7, join the national day of protests at Verizon stores. Visit VerizonProtests.com to find an action near you or to plan one. You will be provided with tools for your action. December 7 is also the night of the “Telecom Prom.” If you are in the Washington, DC area, consider joining the rally that evening outside of it. Contact Eleanor@PopularResistance.org for more information.
3. On December 13 and 14, join the actions to #StopTheVote. A march is planned in the morning at 10:00 starting at the FCC (12th St and Maine Ave., SW, near L’Enfant Plaza). Click here for the march Facebook page. After the march, we will continue to rally at the FCC all night and into the morning to send a strong message to the commissioners and to stop the vote. We will do light projection, leaflet employees and have other activities through the night and morning. Visit the Facebook page here. Contact Eleanor@PopularResistance.org if you have questions.
The Fight will Continue
The work to protect the Internet does not end if the FCC votes for Pai’s plan. Groups are already organizing challenges in the courts and talking to members of Congress about a legislative solution.
We need to continue to press for the Internet to be treated as a public utility with equal access for everyone and freedom to go wherever people want to go on the Internet. To those ends, people are making changes locally to increase Internet access and freedom. Some people are building their own Internet service. Others are creating municipal or cooperatively-owned Internet services.
This is true with all of the crisis issues that we face – the struggles are ongoing. When we achieve victories, we must continue to build on them and defend them. In our next phase of Popular Resistance, we look forward to working with you to build our skills and advance our struggles.
If you believe in Popular Resistance, we urge you to participate in the countdown by checking each day for our new countdown post and sharing it widely. Next Sunday, we will explain the new phase. If you are willing and able to make a donation to support this work, please click here to donate.