Google and Facebook confirmed they will join with other Internet companies to protest of FCC plans to roll back Net Neutrality protections. The largest ever Internet protest will take place on July 12 and involve a variety of actions to tell the public that FCC plans to end Internet freedoms will hurt everyone.
The list of hundreds of internet companies protesting the FCC action, which includes Twitter, Netflix, Reddit, and Vimeo, is expected to grow and will entail slowing services, blacking out normal website banners, or posting notices on web site banners telling the public what they can do to support Net Neutrality.
This development is significant because of the extensive digital connectivity of Facebook and Google. Facebook reported last month that it had reached a milestone of 2 billion visits per month on its customer accounts. Google has over 3.5 billion hits on its servers every day. The digital giants have a combined ability to inform millions of internet users about Net Neutrality.
At the heart of the issue is continued unfettered public access to the Internet, and whether the seven major telecoms will gain exclusive control of the giant communications system. If telecoms such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon get their way and the FCC guts Net Neutrality rules, it will allow the telecoms to selectively throttle data and tier services. If telecoms are given this control they could also limit what sites the public can access, what speeds the sites can be downloaded, or vary access costs based on data speeds or geographical zones. The telecoms will be the only entities that will benefit from the FCC move, argue Net advocates.
“The effort is led by many of the grassroots groups behind the largest online protests in history including the SOPA blackout and the Internet Slowdown. The day of action will focus on grassroots mobilization, with public interest groups activating their members and major web platforms providing their visitors with tools to contact Congress and the FCC,” said Evan Greer, Campaign Director at Fight for the Future.
If this battle sounds familiar, it is because it was already fought and won in 2015. However with the Trump administration policy to deregulate government and a Republican control of Congress, the telecoms have found a new ally with the Trump appointment of Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon lawyer and opponent of Net Neutrality.
Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 provided for the classification of the telephone system as a public utility. The Act was intended to create a single system for the common good and for equal access to everyone. Another intent of the Act was to prevent multiple companies from competing for the same routes by stringing heavy wires along the same overhead telephone poles.
As technological advances resulted in better communications methods and the Internet was created, it replaced the telephone system and became the primary conduit for U.S. communications. Virtually every person is now connected to the Internet in some way. Over 75 percent of transactions and communications are done over the Internet, and it is expected to grow to 80 percent by 2020.
On Thursday, July 6, the Internet Creators Guild, a group of video content creators, also joined the Internet fray by sending a letter to the FCC, urging its Commissioners not to end Net Neutrality. The group was created as services like YouTube and Vimeo enabled the guild to reach over 190 million customers.
Laura Chernikoff, Executive Director of the Internet Creators Guild, said, “Online creators and the American public have made their position loud and clear: we need real, enforceable net neutrality rules rooted in Title II of the Communications Act. This is the only way to ensure each of us can continue to live in a country where Internet users have an equal shot at reaching people and earning a living on the open web.”
Over 50,000 citizens and internet companies have already joined the fight for Net Neutrality.
The deadline for filing a comment with the FCC is July 17 at midnight.
You can file a comment with the FCC about its plan to gut Net Neutrality by going here.