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The Fate of Net Neutrality Hinges on the House

Urge your rep to vote YES on the CRA
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Amy edits all Free Press and Free Press Action Fund communications. She also edits and monitors the Free Press website, coordinates and edits all blogs and helps create campaign, outreach and development materials. Amy has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years and her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and Salon, among other outlets. Amy holds a B.A. in English from Vassar College and an M.F.A. in English from UMass Amherst. She loves hiking, writing, singing and proving to any and all contrarians that Mad Men is the best show of all time.

Expert Analysis

News

  • The Trump FCC’s Net Neutrality repeal takes effect today, meaning that companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon now have the right to block, slow down or otherwise interfere with any online traffic — including any political speech they disagree with.

    You won’t notice any bad behavior on their part right away the big broadband providers are too sneaky for that. But over time we’ll see a return to the kinds of violations that were commonplace before the 2015 open-internet rules were enacted.

    Those greatest hits include Comcast blocking file-sharing applications like BitTorrent, AT&T forcing Apple to block Skype on the iPhone, Verizon Wireless blocking people from using tethering apps on their phones, and AT&T disabling FaceTime unless customers agreed to subscribe to pricier text-and-voice plans.

    These same companies rejoiced when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Republican colleagues overturned the Net Neutrality rules last December, but they should pause before pouring themselves a glass of bubbly.

    In May the Senate passed a Congressional Review Act resolution that would restore the rules, with three Republicans joining Democrats and independents in the 5247 vote. A companion bill is now moving through the House, where more than 175 representatives have expressed support for the CRA. But we need 218 lawmakers to sign a discharge petition that will bring the CRA up for a vote.

    In that spirit we’ve written an open letter to House members. Call on your rep to stand with the people, not companies intent on violating our digital civil rights.

    Our letter appears here and below:

    Dear U.S. House of Representatives:

    We’re at a critical turning point in the future of the internet. To the best of our knowledge:

    1. None of you own a cable or phone company.

    2. All of you use the internet.

    So what comes next should be pretty easy. We’re calling on you to assert your courage, decency and basic awareness of the will of the people who elected you to office by signing on to the Net Neutrality resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).

    This resolution is clearly the will of the people.

    Not big cable. Not big telecom. Not their lobbyists.

    Reversing the Federal Communications Commission vote on Net Neutrality is what we — the millions of people who rely on unfettered access to online health care, employment, education, community, civic engagement and so much more — all want.

    In case it’s not clear that when we say all we really mean all, consider this: More than 86 percent of people in the United States said in 2018 that they support keeping the rules — including 82 percent of Republicans.

    Nearly 83 percent of voters who self-identified as “very conservative” said they were concerned about the possibility of ISPs having the power to “influence content” online.

    Nearly 7,000 small-business owners signed and delivered a letter expressing support for the CRA to congressional district offices across the country.

    More than 50 racial-justice and civil-rights groups wrote the House urging your support for the CRA because the loss of Net Neutrality protections would disproportionately harm communities of color.

    120 mayors of cities large and small have signed the Cities Open Internet Pledge, vowing that they will refuse to do business with any internet providers that violate Net Neutrality.

    More than 800 tech startups from all 50 states expressed support for the CRA. Sir Tim Berners-Lee — the inventor of the World Wide Web — has called on Congress to restore the open-internet protections.

    This issue has united people from every part of the cultural, political, economic and technological spectrum.

    Nonetheless, the FCC is determined to make it legal for telecom companies to abuse our digital civil rights and act as the editors of the internet, picking and choosing what information we can and cannot see, deciding which voices are heard.

    The FCC chairman has neglected his duty to the people in so many ways. He failed to convene public hearings on the matter. He ignored rampant corruption in the proceedings, including the millions of fake comments posted to his agency’s public docket.

    Chairman Ajit Pai is content to stand on the wrong side of history — alongside his former employers at Verizon.

    In the words of one activist, “The FCC doesn’t even seem to be pretending that it’s acting on behalf of the public.”

    What about you? Will you act on our behalf?

    Are you on Team Internet and in support of the CRA?

    Or are you with Team Cable and against the online rights of your constituents?

    We demand to know where you stand on the current Net Neutrality CRA, a resolution that would reverse the unscrupulous FCC vote and restore the strong legal foundation and enforcement for these rules.

    And please: Don’t insult our intelligence by embracing toothless alternative proposals and sham legislation written by cable lobbyists.

    This is the most important vote in the history of the internet, which is the most important innovation of the last century. This is an opportunity to cement your legacy.

    We won’t stop until the Net Neutrality protections are restored in full. And we’ll make sure that all of our friends remember your support for the CRA — or lack thereof — on Election Day this November.

    Respectfully,

    The People of the Internet

  • This is huge: Today New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald introduced legislation that would give residents the news and information they need.

    Civic Info Bill A3628 would establish the Civic Info Consortium, a proposed collaboration among journalists, organizers, tech innovators and higher-education institutions designed to invest in projects that would strengthen local media, provide impactful reporting, expand access to government data, and amplify the voices of people of color and other marginalized communities.

    The need for the consortium couldn’t be more apparent: Media consolidation has shuttered newsrooms across New Jersey and led to thousands of journalist job losses, leaving many communities without any local news coverage.

    At the same time, some promising local news startups have emerged in the state, but their path to economic sustainability is unclear. Through the seed money, partnerships, models and evaluation the consortium could provide, such startups could flourish.

    Free Press Action Fund has spent more than a year listening to people from all over the state and brainstorming with them about the kinds of projects the consortium could support.

    Here’s what some residents had to say:

    “With the weakening of newspapers and so many changes in the political landscape — not to mention a White House that threatens the First Amendment — we need strong local news coverage more than ever. We need to pass this legislation to make the Civic Info Consortium a reality. Ignorance is the biggest impediment to a functional, successful society.”—Bonnie Schultz, Princeton

    “Only informed citizens can make good decisions on how to tackle the many problems we have.”—Samuel Irizarry, Vineland

    “Free and independent reporting allows for an educated populace. An educated people makes for a robust government and economy.”—Christal La Naylor, Cape May

    “I’m an elected Democratic Committee member in my ward and district. In order to serve my constituents well, it is necessary to know what’s going on not only in town, but across the county and the state of New Jersey. And in order for voters to be informed, they need accurate and regular local news reporting.”—Kathryn Riss, Piscataway

    “There is no local media outlet in Toms River. I found out yesterday that there had been a drug bust last week in my retirement community. I am 82 years old and do not feel safe.”—Melhado, Jersey City

    “New Jersey needs local government transparency. Without local news coverage, abuses are much easier to perpetrate and to cover up.”—Bernard Fleitman, Princeton

    “Local news is important to me because I provide services to veterans and their families and would like them to know what can be done to help them be productive members of society and strengthen their communities.”—LaShaunda Carter, Lawnside

    “Local news is significantly important because it gives the voiceless a voice.”—Anselm LeBourne, East Orange

    “I need local coverage to be an informed citizen. With no one reporting on municipal, regional or statewide news, ordinary people cannot be responsible citizens.”—Bill Tyler, Morristown

    “My local newspaper now has a disclaimer: ‘The Suburban Trends is owned by the USA Today network, but is staffed by our local editors.’ These ‘local’ editors are not locals; they were brought in by USA Today from out of the area to replace longtime local editors and they have no interest in covering what’s important to the residents of West Milford Township. … We want our newspaper to report on what’s affecting our township; while the headlines aren’t big for USA Today’s big-city editors, they’re important to the residents of the township.”—Michael Belgie, Hewitt

    “Local news is vital to democracy and to thriving communities. I care about this so much that I’ve quite literally devoted my life to it as a journalism researcher and educator, and as a New Jersey resident, I believe this is of critical importance to this state, poised as it is in the shadow of two bigger markets.”—Carrie Brown, Jersey City

    A big opportunity

    Civic Info Bill Civic Info Bill A3628 would establish the consortium with an initial $20-million investment. Now we need to do everything we can to build momentum for the legislation.

    Gov. Phil Murphy will introduce his first budget next week. By funding the consortium in his budget, he would make it clear to legislators that supporting local media is a priority for his administration.

    If you live in New Jersey, speak out now and urge Gov. Murphy to include the Civic Info Consortium in his budget.

  • Update
    Net Neutrality

    The Movement to Save the Internet

    November 29, 2017

    Millions of people have gotten involved in the Net Neutrality fight since word of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s awful plan broke through in a big way last week.

  • Update
    Media Accountability

    We Will Fight Jeff Sessions Every Step of the Way

    February 9, 2017

    Jeff Sessions — a racist, misogynist, homophobe and Islamophobe — is now our top law enforcement officer. We will speak out whenever he violates civil rights.