WASHINGTON — In late July, on the heels of the Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, the advocacy groups Demand Progress, Free Press Action Fund and Fight for the Future announced the launch of Team Internet. Using a distributed-organizing model — which connects volunteers face to face and empowers them to lead organizing efforts in their communities — Team Internet has mobilized tens of thousands of local activists in just two months.
- Nearly 4,000 people have signed up to visit lawmakers’ in-district offices and attend town halls to express support for the FCC’s existing Title II Net Neutrality rules.
- Team Internet volunteers have spoken in person about Net Neutrality to 200 members of Congress or their staff at both town hall and in-district meetings.
- Racial justice is central to Team Internet’s work. Six hundred activists signed up to attend a live video conference call on the connections between the fight for racial justice and the fight for Net Neutrality. The call was livestreamed on Facebook, where it drew 3,500 views.
- Team Internet is connecting volunteers using a combination of online and offline organizing techniques and platforms. Seven thousand volunteers signed up to call and text hundreds of thousands of other people who had expressed interest in joining the Net Neutrality fight. Volunteers use the Team Internet Slack channel to plan and strategize.
These meetings and town halls are already having a direct impact on the policy debate in Washington: Lawmakers are seeing and hearing from constituents who are willing to speak out about the impact of Net Neutrality on their lives and to advocate for the strong Title II protections the Federal Communications Commission adopted in 2015.
In early September, Team Internet activist Edward Platt, a PhD student in the University of Michigan’s School of Information, organized a meeting with the in-district office of Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Michigan). Fifteen fellow Team Internet activists joined him. “I grew up in a working-class family with a father who is a mechanic. … A free and open internet has allowed me to engage with information and experiences beyond my home life,” said Platt.
Some events have been extremely well-attended, including a meeting at the office of Rep. Kurt Schrader (D–Oregon) that drew 22 local Net Neutrality supporters. Kirk Leonard, a Team Internet activist who helped arrange the meeting, followed the visit with a letter to the editor of the Statesman Journal. “I had a chance to ask Rep. Kurt Schrader a question and to meet with his staff about [efforts to repeal Title II Net Neutrality],” he wrote. “... Rep. Schrader responded ‘Title II is for telephones,’ a trite truism that reflects nothing of the principle of the law — required provision of universal, equal telecommunications access for all people by common carriers like phone, cable and wireless companies.”
Across the country, volunteers like Platt and Leonard are meeting with lawmakers, turning up at rallies, attending mass calls and coordinating with other activists in ways they’ve never before been able to do.
“Wherever you go, you can feel the energy and enthusiasm for Net Neutrality. Students, doctors, software engineers, lawyers and more are volunteering their time because they want a free and open internet,” said Free Press Action Fund Field Director Mary Alice Crim. “They’re gathering at lawmakers’ offices, protesting outside speeches by FCC Chairman Pai, taking part in conference calls to learn more about the connections between Net Neutrality and racial justice, and connecting online and off to plan their next steps. From Oakland to Lincoln, Nebraska, to Washington, D.C., their message is: We won’t accept anything less than real Net Neutrality.”
“There are so many crucial issues people are engaging in right now, from health care to organizing against the phaseout of DACA to advocating for racial justice. At the end of the day, folks know if their free speech is curtailed because we don’t have strong Net Neutrality protections, organizing on these issues will be extremely difficult,” said Demand Progress Director of Operations and Communications Mark Stanley. “We’re seeing an unprecedented number of activists take time out of their busy lives to meet with lawmakers and their staff on this issue. Net Neutrality is vital for civil discourse, our democracy and organizing on issues that impact people’s daily lives, and people are willing to fight for it now more than ever.”
"For decades, communications policy was decided in closed-door meetings between lawmakers and lobbyists from giant corporations. Team Internet seeks to change that forever, by using the free and open internet to connect and empower people," said Fight for the Future organizer Laila Abdelaziz. "People from a wide range of political perspectives are joining Team Internet to defend Title II Net Neutrality because these rules are the First Amendment of the internet. If we don’t stop the FCC from allowing blocking, throttling and charging new fees online, we stand to lose so much of our freedom and power.”
Highlights from Team Internet events, including photos and videos from activists, are available upon request.