Web companies joined thousands of individuals on Wednesday, July 12 in the largest ever Internet action to stop an FCC plan to end Net Neutrality. Digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future reported that an unprecedented number of web companies, groups, organizations, and individuals signed up and joined the action.
By Thursday, opposition to the FCC plan was unmistakable. According to Fight for the Future, individuals sent over 5 million emails for delivery to Congress which will be hand delivered in the coming days. More than 2 million comments were sent directly to the FCC comments site, tripling the September 10, 2014 “Internet Slowdown” record, the previous all-time record for FCC comments on any issue.
The phones at the Capitol were busy too. There were over 124,000 phone calls to Congress between Wednesday and Thursday. Protesters also visited over 20 Congressional offices Wednesday.
The hashtag #NetNeutrality trended on Twitter and Facebook. More than 125,000 websites, people, artists, online creators, and organizations signed up to participate in the initial call to protest.
The goal was to educate the public about what could happen if control of Internet access was given to a handful of telecoms.
Many web companies, which are entirely dependent on the Internet for their customer access and profitability, placed banners and tools for the public to learn about Net Neutrality to inform them of the fate of Internet if Net Neutrality ends. They also helped make it easier the public post comments to the FCC site.
The FCC is required under federal statuet to solicit public comments on issues related to changes in public communications which affect access or use.
The Internet is classified as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. Everyone who accesses the Internet has equal access to all sites at equal speeds. No corporation can control accessibility to any site which the public uses, slow down information from those sites based on competition, or charge fees for access to preferred sites. But with the end of Net Neutrality all that could and probably would change, according to Net advocates.
As of Thursday the FCC comments site reported over 10 million comments had been logged. That’s more than triple the number of comments logged during the same Net Neutrality battle fought to save the Internet in 2014-2015.
“Net Neutrality [action] breaks records with well over 10 million people reached so far,” said Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future.
Some web sites were creative, designing memes and cartoons to illustrate what is at stake and how the end of Net Neutrality could hurt equal access to information.
Imgur, an image sharing site which was launched in 2008, and has grown substantially since its launch, created a series of witty memes to illustrate an internet which has lost innovation and access.
Imgur is rated 45th by Alexa in online traffic or web hits. Alexa provides website tracking services by which advertisers can rate whether a certain site is a good place to invest advertising dollars. Google, which is rated as number one on Alexa, also took part in the Net Neutrality action.
Another site taking place in the Net Neutrality action was Vimeo, a video sharing service. Vimeo created a colorful video explaining Net Neutrality and why it was important to maintain an open and free internet as a standard. Vimeo is ranked 95th on Alexa.
Mozilla, the parent web company of its browser, Firefox, posted a prominent banner on its site urging the FCC to “Please leave the internet open to people one and all. Let the little guys keep their voice.” Millions use the Firefox browser daily to access the Internet.
Reddit, a popular discussion site posted an “Urgent” red banner headline, requesting its users to contact the FCC, and their representative to urge that Net Neutrality rules stay in place. The banner had over 55,000 “up votes” by 9 pm on Wednesday.
The FCC has named the docket “Restoring Internet Freedom,” casting the issue as if Internet freedom currently doesn’t exist, but this is not the case. The Internet is at present open with equal access to everyone. It is actually the intent of the language in the docket to cede control of the internet to several telecoms.
You can make a comment on FCC Docket number 17-108 here.
Many sites participating in the action also designed their own links to make it easier for the public to access the FCC docket in order to make a comment. One such link, named gofccyourself.com, was set up by comedian John Oliver and released during one of his monologues.
The FCC will accept public comments until midnight on August 17, 2017.
The next FCC open commission meeting scheduled after the comment period closes is marked for September 28, 2017. It is the soonest date the five-member commission could vote on the rollback of Internet rules.