It’s hard to ignore millions of voices calling for net neutrality—but the FCC was doing a pretty good job of it until we showed up on their doorstep with tents.Posted 17:07 EDT on May 27, 2014
Here’s the latest. Three weeks ago, we organized a game-changing encampment outside of the FCC building in DC to shine a spotlight on the agency’s terrible plan to move ahead with a corrupt “net neutrality” proposal that could allow for Internet discrimination and censorship.
What started as a rag tag band of die-hard Internet freedom activists camped out on the FCC’s doorstep with tents quickly blossomed into a full-on popular revolt against the FCC’s proposal that – according to TIME Magazine – caused utter chaos on the executive floor.
For decades, the FCC building has been visited almost exclusively by lobbyists from Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. When we showed up and put out the call to Occupy the FCC, everything changed, and we put REAL net neutrality back on the table.
This encampment would not have been possible without the incredible outpouring of support from our list and the Internet in general. Your donations, tweets, and encouragement made this happen – and we all owe an extra special thanks to the dedicated people on our list who jumped on buses to Washington, DC to join the camp.
As we camped out for nine days outside the FCC, hundreds of thousands of Internet activists called, e-mailed, and commented on the FCC’s net discrimination proposal and lent support to the activists at the encampment.
Even with rain pouring down on us, we kicked off our encampment with a bang. Our friends at PopularResistance.org were first on the scene with their huge SAVE THE INTERNET banner. After the first night they started to set up tents. With the support of online activists like you, our firewall of tents grew quickly and the impact was immediate.
Everyday, we were awake at 6AM, energized and ready to hand out flyers and talk to FCC employees as they came into work. By being out at the FCC earlier and later than any of their employees, we made sure every single employee, manager and security guard saw us, talked to us, and took a flyer from us. It was fun to think about our net neutrality flyers filling the FCC building, sitting on people’s desks and inspiring lunch room conversations.
We received an inspiring amount of positive support from FCC employees. Employees would thanks us for camping outside the FCC, give us high fives, or discrete thumbs ups.
The FCC itself is split, with a majority its employees seemingly siding with us. According to an article in the Daily Caller, after just a few days of our encampment, employee morale at the FCC was so low that Tom Wheeler had to call a special meeting to address internal concerns with his bogus proposal.
As our numbers grew, the number of tents wrapping around the FCC grew as well. Our encampment was made up of activists who came all across the country from San Francisco to DC. We demonstrated that the Internet community has real power to defend itself against corporate attacks on net neutrality.
Everyday as rush hour traffic picked up around 5pm, we would picket and chant outside the FCC as employees left the building. Cars, trucks and buses would honk in support as we made sure every single FCC employee leaving work had to listen to us.
Media coverage of the encampment skyrocketed as our encampment grew and the FCC lost leverage. This is Elise Hu of NPR interviewing activists at the encampment. As time went on more and more reporters and photographers came from the New York TImes, BBC, Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, The Guardian, Democracy Now – as a matter of fact, the only network that didn’t show up was NBC (which just happens to be owned by Comcast/Universal…)
The FCC took notice of us. A majority of the commissioners personally came down to listen to our demands and speak to us. Above, Commissioner Ajit Pai engages in a friendly debate with Dr. Margaret Flowers, who made it clear we want Title II reclassification and nothing less.
Less than 24 hours before he pushed for a vote on his flawed proposal that could gut net neutrality, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler came down to our encampment to meet with us. He listened carefully to our demands, and did his best to paint a picture where we were on the same side. He even got his picture taken with a sign that said “Honk for the Open Internet” and then had a member of his staff tweet it.
But if Tom Wheeler really wanted the open Internet, he could do more than ask people to honk for it. Based on our conversations with the other Commissioners, if Wheeler pushed forward a proposal to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier and protect net neutrality, he’d have the votes to get it passed and could be a hero for the web.
So why doesn’t he? Well, it could have something to do with the fact that he was an industry lobbyist for cable companies for 20 years before becoming the FCC Commissioner.
On May 15, the 9th day of the encampment and the day of the open Internet FCC hearing, dozens of groups worked together on a major rally to Save the Internet. As the rally kicked into high gear, the meeting on net neutrality was starting inside the FCC.
During the meeting inside the FCC, protesters were forcefully removed from the room, including this Vietnam veteran. As they were removed from the building, press were already outside and ready to interview them about their experience inside.
With protesters inside and outside the FCC, Tom Wheeler decided to move forward with his proposal that includes discriminating Internet users and websites into slow lanes.
Even though Wheeler pushed his proposal through, we’ve made a huge win – reclassification of the Internet (real net neutrality) is now on the table - something that was not possible two months ago when we petitioned him. If you’d like to read more about Tom Wheeler’s decision, read this article.
Now that our demands are on the table, we’ll have to continue to ramp up the pressure on the FCC in the coming months to win real net neutrality once and for all. Not only will we have to maintain the pressure on FCC, but we’ll have to take the fight to the White House and Congress as well.
For starters, we’re telling the President Obama to fire Tom Wheeler and replace him with a FCC Chair who will actually serve the public good by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility.
Our fight to win reclassification for real net neutrality has only just begun – you can subscribe to our e-mail list and we’ll let you know about new actions you can take to step into the fight.
One last note – with the anniversary of the Snowden leaks coming up on June 5th, we’re moving to Reset The Net to take back privacy and stop intrusive mass surveillance. Together we can reclaim privacy on our own terms by making surveillance too difficult and too cumbersome for government agencies to intrude.
Stay tuned after June 5th for more important updates in the fight to keep the Internet free, open, and dare we say, awesome.