Despite an FCC No-Show, New Yorkers Speak Out for the Open Internet

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Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

NEW YORK — The fight to save Net Neutrality and stop the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger came to Brooklyn on Monday night as an enthusiastic crowd of New Yorkers testified before five empty chairs, each representing one of the five FCC commissioners who either declined or failed to respond to the event organizers’ invitations to attend the public hearing in person.

The event, held at the Brooklyn Public Library, was attended by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City Mayoral Counsel Maya Wiley, former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and more than 125 people from the region. Testimony from the audience was recorded for submission to the FCC. The hearing occurred against the backdrop of two pending FCC decisions that could harm the open Internet.

Since the FCC’s open Internet proceeding began earlier this year, a record-breaking 3.7 million Americans have submitted comments to the agency. Nearly all commenters to the FCC have urged the agency to use its congressionally granted authority to protect Internet users’ rights and prevent a few powerful phone and cable companies from controlling the future of communications. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions and submitted comments to the FCC urging it to reject the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

Thousands of people have urged the FCC to get out of Washington, D.C., and hold public hearings on Net Neutrality and the Comcast merger, but Chairman Tom Wheeler has ignored this call. Common Cause, Consumers Union, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Free Press and the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) hosted the Brooklyn hearing to give New Yorkers the chance to speak out.

Following are some of the many comments made at Monday night’s hearing:

“This is a real inflection point for us as a society and for those five folks there,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps as he gestured to the five empty seats representing the five absent commissioners. “The decisions they’re going to make between now and the end of the year are probably the most important that the FCC is going to make in a generation. … The FCC has the obligation not to vote until they get out of the Beltway and listen to the people who have to live with the results of their decisions.”

“While Tom Wheeler's FCC is debating behind closed doors whether or not to allow Internet companies to discriminate online, more than 3 million people, from lawyers to laymen, already agree that the answer should be no,” said Malkia Cyril of MAG-Net. “Telecom corporations and their partners argue that some discrimination for profit is OK, necessary even. The Media Action Grassroots Network has more than 175 organizational members nationwide that know firsthand that discrimination is never OK — not in our police departments or on our Internet. The future of our nation can't afford more discrimination, online or off.”

“Lose Net Neutrality and these big phone and cable companies are going to be given a license to discriminate,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “FCC commissioners spend far too much time inside corporate boardrooms and not enough time in rooms like this one. It's been more than five years since all five FCC commissioners appeared outside Washington together at a hearing with an open microphone. We invited them all tonight … we’re still waiting."

“We need the FCC to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “The alternative, where the FCC is powerless to regulate the largest telecom monopoly in the world, would be much worse.”

“To allow the large telecommunications companies to have a fast lane for those who pay for it and [relegate] everyone else to a slow lane is absolutely not Net Neutrality despite what they may try to call it,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler. “It’s wrong and we cannot let it happen. … We must fight on until the FCC reclassifies Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II.”

“I'm living proof that when you have an open network that empowers the least among us to become creators — just as much as the rich and powerful — we are literally saving lives,” said 18 Million Rising Technical Director Cayden Mak. “It's not just base survival; it's a chance to thrive.”

“An open Internet is critical to our communities’ ability to effectively organize for racial and social justice,” said ColorOfChange Communications Manager Dallas Donnell. “Some say Title II is too extreme and a pay-to-play corporatized Internet is the way to go. They say if we give more power and control to corporations, it will benefit people of color. We disagree.”

“I support a free and unregulated and untethered Internet — free of interference from both Big Brother and Big Business,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. “It's important that you've come out and that you continue to speak up on this issue, because your voices will be heard. … Congress takes note that the American people stood up and expressed yourself in such a powerful way to the FCC.”

“We're here because we want to live in a world where businesses succeed or fail based on the value of their products and not the depths of their pockets,” said Etsy Policy Director Althea Erickson. “And that's why we’re urging the FCC to reclassify broadband access under Title II.”

“The FCC's upcoming votes on Net Neutrality and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger will have a profound impact on the future of the Internet,” said Consumers Union Policy Counsel Delara Derakhshani. “Chairman Wheeler and the rest of the FCC commissioners need to get out of Washington to hear from everyday Americans who will have to live with the decisions they are about to make. The FCC's votes on these two issues will have a huge impact on what we all see online, how fast we see it and how much we’ll pay.”

“The battle over the Internet and Title II reclassification is one of the most important racial and economic justice issues of our time,” said Presente.org Director Mariana Ruiz. “Fast lanes are dangerous because they bake into the Internet a systemic disadvantage for those of us with fewer economic resources. … That's why paid prioritization is such a loser for everyone except the corporations.”

“We must resist the corporate logic that argues that everything in the public sphere must be for sale,” said Penn State Professor Courtney Desiree Morris. “The Internet is a public good; it belongs to all of us. It's not for sale, not now, not ever. We say no to corporate immunity and yes to a culture of transparency and accountability.”

“Nobody wants to game in the slow lane,” said Preston Baez, who came to “unofficially” represent gamers and heavy metal fans. “My life has changed with metal music. I now only listen to metal music. And in the past five years a whole new style has been invented using the Internet. That wouldn’t have happened without the Internet. And if you have to pay to upload your music for people to listen to it, that's just completely restricting artistic freedom in every way.”

The complete video of the event is online at http://new.livestream.com/internetsociety/newyorkspeaks

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good