Advocacy organizations and digital justice supporters around the country are hosting protests outside more than 700 Verizon stores today (December 7) to demand the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) protect net neutrality—the principle of an open internet that is protected from corporate interference.
These actions are the latest steps by groups working under the Team Internet banner to protest FCC commissioner Ajit Pai’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality safeguards. Team Internet members include organizations like the Center for Media Justice, which says the regulations protecting net neutrality allow communities of color to tell the stories that traditional media outlets often ignore.
“Net neutrality doesn’t only protect opportunity for struggling families; it preserves our right to organize in a digital age,” wrote Center for Media Justice executive director Malkia Cyril in a statement from April, when Pai first announced plans to remove open internet regulations. “The internet, protected by the current net neutrality rules, has enabled the mothers of children killed by police to demand an end to police violence; it has enabled undocumented students to fight for changes to our broken immigration system. It’s provided the opportunity for new Black voices in the arts to bypass Hollywood gatekeepers.”
Team Internet members Fight for the Future, Free Press and Demand Progress coordinated the demonstrations with regional organizers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. An additional action will be held outside tonight’s 31st FCC Chairman’s Dinner, an annual reception where telecommunications companies and media roast the standing chairman.
Free Press said in an announcement that the organizers chose to target Verizon stores because Pai previously worked as an attorney for the company: “The telecommunications giant has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists, campaign contributions and think tanks to spread misinformation about net neutrality.”
Pai and the four FCC commissioners are accepting comments on net neutrality ahead of a meeting next Thursday (December 14) to vote on the proposed rollback. Pai refused New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman’s call to delay the vote after his office and a Pew Research Center report found that many online net neutrality comments used temporary or duplicate email addresses. The Pew report says that at least 57 percent of the comments used fraudulent addresses.