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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/21/17

United To Save The Internet

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Message Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

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Ajit Pai, who now chairs the Federal Communications Commission, has taken the first official steps to destroy the free and open Internet by proposing the end of Title II net neutrality rules on May 18. This would be a giveaway to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other large Internet Service Providers that would allow them to control access to content on the Internet and charge users more fees.

Chairman Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, is an example of the revolving door between government and industry that serves big business interests, and not the people. Pai has demonstrated during his first few months as chairman that he will say anything, including obvious lies, to serve the telecom industry.

We must act quickly to save the Internet from going the road of cable TV where people can only see what they can afford. This is also an opportunity for the people to challenge corrupt corporate power and a sold out federal agency.

In the Washington Post, former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler writes, along with two US Senators:

"For as long as the Internet has existed, it has been grounded on the principle of net neutrality -- that what you read, see or watch online shouldn't be favored, blocked or slowed down based on where that content is coming from. Net neutrality means that cable companies can't reserve the fastest Internet speeds for the biggest companies and leave everyone else in the slow lane. . . .That's why it's so alarming to see that the Federal Communications Commission, a federal agency that's expected to help protect the Internet, is planning to roll back net neutrality rules."

How We Win

There is no doubt that if the people mobilize we can stop this big business take over of the Internet -- but, as John Eggerton writes, people must mobilize or we will lose it. This is an issue that connects all of us and all political issues as the Internet is an essential tool for education, organization and mobilization.

We began the campaign to protect our Internet by going to Ajit Pai's neighborhood. It is important to highlight that he is the one driving this process. We delivered door hangers to his neighbors. Then we held a four-day peaceful vigil on the sidewalk at the end of his driveway. We had an overwhelmingly positive response from his neighbors and people driving by. Many neighbors came out to speak with us, said they supported net neutrality and brought their children to learn about the issue. On May 16, we protested in front of the FCC by trashing computers to demonstrate that without the Internet, our computers are useless.

Here are our next tasks:

- Make Pai's corporate giveaway politically toxic so politicians of both parties in power are forced to intervene on behalf of the people. Politicians need to know that the people are angry that the Internet is being destroyed and that those who do not work to protect it will pay a heavy political price. We need phone calls, emails, petitions, sit-ins, protests at their offices and town halls.

- Highlight Ajit Pai's ties to the telecom industry and how the policies he puts in place now will reward him with a multi-million dollar annual income when he returns to it. His self interest should not come before his duty to represent the public interest. Harold Feld, who has covered Internet policy for 20 years, outlines the ways in which Pai is acting like he is still a Verizon lawyer, Pai needs to be made personally into someone with whom no politician wants to be associated.

- Point out the constant false statements being put forward by Pai. While he says the opposite, Title II net neutrality rules are essential for a fair market because they allow the Davids to challenge the Goliaths. To keep the Internet a place of innovation, creativity and economic activity, everyone must be able to go wherever they want to go on the Internet, put up websites with the same speeds and service as big business sites and compete. The net neutrality rules of 2015 created record investment in the Internet; upending them will create confusion and derail investment. Pai is even lying about advocates of net neutrality, such as Free Press and Popular Resistance.

- Highlight the critical importance of the Internet remaining free and equal for all with no discrimination for diversifying media and opening up political dialogue. Commercial media is concentrated in the hands of six corporations, now ISP's like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are buying commercial media (e.g. Comcast owns NBC, AT&T is buying CNN). Without net neutrality, ISPs will be able to control what people see on the Internet by prioritizing their content and minimizing other voices. There is a growing number of independent and non-profit media outlets, as well as social media, that diversify our sources of information. Non-commercial media coverage has been critical for the Black Lives Matter movement, Occupy, Fight for $15, and other efforts to organize. The anonymous leaking of documents to show people what governments and corporations are doing is only possible with an open Internet.

- Comment on the proposed FCC rule. Tell the FCC to keep Title II net neutrality rules. John Oliver explains the issue in this monologue, which resulted in 1.6 million comments being sent in to the FCC (hundreds of thousands came from pro-repeal groups that used bots to steal people's identities and submit comments, but Pai has not denounced this violation of the law and privacy). However, the rule making did not start until this week, so people need to comment now. Click here for simple step-by-step instructions to submit a comment. In the 2014/15 campaign 3.7 million people commented, almost all for Title II net neutrality. We need to break that record this time.

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Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers are organizers of Popular Resistance, co-directors of Its Our Economy and co-host Clearing The FOG

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