Net neutrality activists relaunch the Battle for the Net, demanding the Biden administration end the revolving door at the FCC and restore the open Internet
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, affordable and reliable Internet access has never been more important. Many people are still working from home, children are still learning online, and people looking for information about where and when to get a vaccine often require the Internet. But nearly 80 million people in the U.S. still do not have adequate broadband at home—with poor families and people of color disproportionately disconnected.
More than 20 organizations are joining forces to call on the Biden administration to address this ongoing issue. Battle for the Net has long been the grassroots hub for information and action regarding net neutrality. Now, Fight for the Future and Demand Progress are working with a coalition of digital and civil rights organizations to re-focus this fight by demanding the Biden administration appoint a fifth commissioner with no telecom industry ties to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
"The Biden Administration has said getting people online during the pandemic is a top priority, and if that’s the case we need a real champ appointed to the FCC, ASAP—someone who isn’t beholden to big telecom companies because they used to work for them. The last thing we need is some Democratic version of Ajit Pai," said Caitlin Seeley George (she/her), director of campaigns and operations at Fight for the Future. "A fully functional FCC will be able to ensure kids can keep learning without being forced to sit outside fast food restaurants, it will be able to start the process of reinstating net neutrality, and it will be able to stop greedy ISPs from imposing data caps and kicking people offline."
"Americans desperately need a return to an FCC that is an empowered advocate for the public, not the telecom industry," said Mark Stanley, director of operations for Demand Progress. "The Biden administration has a historic opportunity to close the digital divide for millions, ensure net neutrality, and protect consumers against ISP abuses. It is no longer a question of whether broadband internet access is an essential service. It is, and it is critical that Biden’s nominee is someone who understands this reality and supports Title II classification for broadband."
While the Biden administration has yet to announce a candidate for the fifth commissioner position, some of the names being floated include candidates with ties to the telecom industry. This is a major concern for the groups on Battle for the Net — they highlight that the seat should not be filled by anyone with media or telecom industry history, to ensure they prioritise fighting for people instead of industry. The groups also highlight that it is critical the fifth commissioner supports the Title II classification for broadband access that was repealed by the Trump FCC, which was chaired by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai. Critically, Title II classification provides the necessary legal authority for the FCC to ensure net neutrality and network reliability, expand affordability, and protect consumers against ISP abuses, including unfair data caps.
In the past, BattleForTheNet.com has hosted campaigns that have resulted in millions of actions in support of net neutrality, thousands of calls to legislators to pass the Save the Internet Act, and helped organize websites and companies around events like the historic 2014 Internet Slowdown Day of Action — one of the biggest days of online activism ever.
Organizations participating in the current action to push the Biden administration to appoint an open Internet champion as the fifth commissioner to the FCC include:
Fight for the Future
Free Press Action
American Family Voices
California Clean Money Action Fund
Center for Popular Democracy Action
Friends of the Earth Action
People For the American Way
Social Security Works
The Zero Hour
United Church of Christ, OC Inc.
Win Without War