In more than 700 U.S. towns and cities, from Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, to San Francisco, people took to the streets Thursday to protest the proposed changes to net neutrality regulations. The new rules have been proposed by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and are scheduled to be voted on next Thursday, December 14.
Thursday’s protests mostly took place outside Verizon Wireless stores. The proposed rules would ultimately allow carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast to offer tiered pricing — the more a person or company pays, the faster their packets are moved along the internet backbone. So far none has said it plans to do that, but net neutrality supporters claim that without regulation there is no way to prevent carriers from doing so in the future.
Under current FCC regulations the internet is regulated like a common carrier phone company. Every data packet is treated equally and none has priority over another. Some heavy users, like Netflix, already pay for and operate data centers at the network’s edge that push their data faster to their end-users. But the speed at which those packets travel the internet backbone to reach that edge is no faster than the speed at which your latest cat photo is emailed to your friends.
According to a press release from Fight for the Future, protests will continue beginning Tuesday, December 12:
On the heels of [Thursday’s] ground protests, net neutrality supporters are calling on Internet users, websites, apps, and small businesses to participate in “Break the Internet,” an online protest starting 48 hours before the FCC’s scheduled vote [on December 14], where sites, apps, and social media feeds will appear creatively “broken” as they might be without net neutrality protections, with messages driving phone calls to Congress. Twitter users will “break” their feeds by using a #BreakTheInternet tool that will auto-tweet about net neutrality every 10 minutes starting on December 12 until the FCC votes.
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, said:
This is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. Internet users from across the political spectrum are outraged, and they’re coming out of the woodwork to demand that their elected officials do their jobs and stop the FCC from voting to kill net neutrality. The Internet has given ordinary people more power than they’ve ever had before, and what we are seeing today is that people are willing to fight to defend that power.
The FCC is made up of five voting commissioners, including the chairman. With a Republican president in office the commission includes three Republicans who are expected to support the proposed changes and two Democrats who are not.