Supporters of net neutrality are today urging Internet users to send comments to the FCC to tell the agency that its plan to reverse the nation's net neutrality rules is wrong and unfair. Instead, net neutrality supporters argue, the existing rules help ensure that internet service providers aren't allowed to discriminate between different types of content and communications and should be maintained.
The Day of Action online protest, which is being organized and supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter, Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla, GitHub, Vimeo and many other businesses, is being held today, July 12 to grow support for the net neutrality rules, which went into effect in 2015. Also joining the protest are organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Library Association, the Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, Greenpeace, MoveOn and Organizing For Action.
"The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online," the organizers of the Battle for the Net Project state on its website. "If they get their way, they'll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. On July 12th, the Internet will come together to stop them."
A wide range of websites from participating companies and organizations are today displaying prominent alerts on their home pages, displaying what their sites might look like if net neutrality rules didn't exist in the future. That could mean that sites would be blocked unless users pay to access them, or it could mean that access would be slowed due to the whims of ISPs, the groups argue.
The protest pages and sites will also encourage visitors to send notes with their opinions directly to the Federal Communications Commission and to Congress to protest the agency's proposal to dump the net neutrality rules.
Net neutrality was approved by the FCC in 2015 to protect free speech on the internet to prevent ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from slowing down and blocking websites of competitors or companies that potentially wouldn't pay premiums to promote their sites. The rules, which are part of Title II of the federal Communications Act, also forbid ISPs from charging apps and sites extra fees to reach a specific audience.
Supporters argue that net neutrality is the fairness that makes the internet a place for creativity, free expression and for the exchange of ideas, without controls that sort content based on pay meters or popularity.
"Without net neutrality, the internet will become more like cable TV, where the content you see is what your provider puts in front of you," says the Battle for the Net Project.
A typical protest was noted on the EFF web page on July 12, showing the site "blocked" by a pop-up unless visitors pay a $199.99 access fee. The "fee" is satire and mocks what could happen in the net neutrality rules are dumped, the group said in a statement.
"You might have noticed something unusual when you visited the EFF website today: our site was 'blocked' unless you shelled out for 'premium' internet access," the homepage states. "As part of the day of action to support net neutrality, we decided to imagine what might happen if FCC Chairman Ajit Pai caves to industry pressure and abandons the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted just two years ago. If you don't want to live in that future, it's time to take action."
The EFF created a special site, DearFCC.org, where visitors can send their comments to the FCC to let the agency know their thoughts about the proposed reversal. "We'll offer some suggestions to get you started, but you can say whatever you like. What's most important is that the FCC hears from you," the group adds.
At Twitter, Lauren Culbertson, the public policy manager for the social media company, wrote in a July 11 post on the Twitter Blog that her company is part of the online protest because net neutrality rules as they stand today help encourage freedom and innovation on the internet, giving small players as much access as the big players have online.
"In general, these principles mean that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are obligated to treat and transmit all bits equally, regardless of origin, content, or destination," she wrote. "Net neutrality is foundational to competitive, free enterprise, entrepreneurial market entry – and reaching global customers. You don't have to be a big shot to compete. Anyone with a great idea, a unique perspective to share, and a compelling vision can get in the game."
But that could change if existing net neutrality rules are reversed, she argued. "Without the guiding principles of net neutrality, it is entirely possible Twitter would not have come from a somewhat quirky experimental 140-character SMS service to where we are today, an international company with thousands of employees and a service that incorporates pictures, video, and live streaming and connects the world to every side of what's happening."
The open internet rules put in place by the FCC in 2015 "are based upon a solid legal framework that has been sustained by the courts," Culbertson continued. "The FCC net neutrality rules effectively safeguard the open internet as an engine of innovation and investment and as a global platform for free expression."
Twitter opposes the FCC's intentions today to be "moving quickly through a rulemaking process to gut the core entrepreneurial and consumer protections that are the heart of the innovation economy," she wrote. "The FCC should abandon its misguided effort to obviate all the work that has been done on behalf of all internet users."
Internet users can submit their comments to the FCC for the record by visiting this link and clicking on the "Express" tab to file their remarks.