WASHINGTON — On Thursday, thousands of Net Neutrality supporters will protest outside more than 700 Verizon stores in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Other Dec. 7 protests will occur at nearly 20 congressional in-district offices, and outside the Washington Hilton Hotel during tonight’s “FCC Chairman’s Dinner.”
Protesters will highlight FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal the 2015 Net Neutrality rules that prevent broadband companies from blocking access to websites, purposefully slowing down internet speeds or otherwise interfering with online traffic.
BattlefortheNet.com partners Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and Free Press Action Fund launched verizonprotests.com to help activists organize the protests. In the two weeks since Pai released his proposal, more than 750,000 people have used the coalition’s battleforthenet.com call tool to urge lawmakers in Washington to condemn the FCC plan to destroy Net Neutrality.
Pai, who has scheduled a Dec. 14 vote to gut the Net Neutrality protections, has close ties to Verizon, where he once worked as a lawyer. The telecommunications giant has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions and think tanks to spread misinformation about Net Neutrality. The Washington dinner, attended by phone- and cable-industry executives, lobbyists, lawyers and the press, is a “roast” honoring Chairman Pai.
“The outcry from beyond the Beltway is beginning to change many minds in Washington,” said Free Press Action Fund Field Director Mary Alice Crim. “Phones are ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill as people take to the streets to put the public need for an open internet before the demands of Verizon lobbyists. Despite the outpouring of support for Net Neutrality, the three men who make up the FCC’s majority remain determined to ignore the democratic process and take away the rights of internet users. One thing is certain: Chairman Pai won’t have the last word on Net Neutrality.”
Dozens of lawmakers have spoken out against Pai’s plan since the drumbeat of phone calls to Capitol Hill began in late November. A handful of Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, have joined scores of Democratic and independent leaders to express concerns about Pai’s unpopular proposal.
“This is the kind of corruption that turns your stomach,” said Fight for the Future Campaign Director Evan Greer. “This is why people are protesting at hundreds of Verizon stores and congressional offices across the country on Thursday, and why close to a million people have called Congress. Under Pai’s leadership, the FCC has made a mockery of our democratic process. With a rogue FCC commissioner blatantly captured by the industry he’s supposed to provide oversight for, Congress must do their job and take action to stop the FCC vote on Dec. 14.”
The passion for Net Neutrality protections crosses party lines. A Civis Analytics poll from July found that 77 percent of Americans support the current protections, including 73 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats.
“As the past two weeks have shown, people reject the ongoing love affair between hated internet service providers and D.C. policymakers,” said Demand Progress Director of Communications Mark Stanley. “Democrats and Republicans alike are willing to take action against any threat to Net Neutrality rules that protect our online rights. People across the country are refusing to give up without a fight ahead of the FCC vote on Dec. 14, and they will continue to mobilize as long as it takes until the open-internet rules are protected.”
BattlefortheNet.com is a collaborative effort of Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and Free Press Action Fund. These organizations also run a massive grassroots-organizing initiative called Team Internet, which involves nearly half a million people who are willing to take their Net Neutrality activism from the internet to the streets. The coalition was instrumental in organizing millions of people across the United States in support of the FCC’s 2015 decision to ground Net Neutrality protections in Title II of the Communications Act.