The word “historic” gets tossed around a lot, but let’s face it: Not everything is worthy of the term. But this has been a truly historic week in the fight to save the Internet. And it’s barely begun.
Ever since a federal court struck down the FCC’s old Internet rules in January, millions of people have spoken out about the importance of preserving Net Neutrality. Chairman Tom Wheeler’s pay-to-play plan, which would allow rampant discrimination online, has generated a bigger public response than any other proposal in the agency’s history.
In fact, the FCC’s electronic comment-filing site crashed earlier today because so many people were trying to submit comments by the original midnight deadline. Hours later, the site still isn’t cooperating, so the agency decided toextend the deadline to Fri., July 18. This in itself is pretty unprecedented.
It’s no surprise that the FCC’s site crashed: Around the country, people, politicians and organizations are making lots of noise about the need to protect the free and open Internet.
On Tuesday, a group of 13 senators – including Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ron Wyden – signed Sen. Ed Markey’s letter to the FCC pushing for real Net Neutrality. The letter urges the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers to “prevent online discrimination.”
Reclassification, the letter continues, would “reflect the vital role the Internet plays in carrying our most important information and our greatest ideas.” Markey was joined at a press conference in the Capitol by Sens. Al Franken, Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer as along with Craig Aaron of Free Press, Althea Erickson of Etsy and Gene Kimmelman of Public Knowledge.
Also on Tuesday, leaders of 13 grassroots organizations representing more than 10 million people championed the need to reclassify and ensure the Internet remains a level playing field. Three of these organizations – Free Press, Demand Progress and Fight for the Future – also just launched Battle for the Net to encourage more people to submit comments.
“Almost no one outside FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s office is advocating for his pay-to-play proposal,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “Wheeler claims he supports the open Internet, but the rules he’s proposing would allow rampant discrimination and fast lanes for the fortunate few. That’s totally unacceptable, and it’s why so many everyday Internet users are so upset.”
Meanwhile, musicians including OK Go, R.E.M., Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Nate Query of the Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and the Daptone Super Soul Revue submitted joint comments to the FCC on Tuesday.
“Each of us uses the Internet in practically every aspect of our lives and careers, from connecting with fans to booking tours to selling music and merchandise to collaborating with other artists,” the comments read. “Those of us who remember the small army of personnel it took in the old days to do even a couple of the things listed above are grateful for the innovations that have come from an open Internet.”
And let’s not forget the startups, which have been a crucial part of the fight to save Net Neutrality. Etsy, Kickstarter, Mozilla and many others have submitted comments and spoken out about how essential an open Internet has been to their ventures.
Big tech giants are speaking up too: On Monday, the Internet Association, a lobbying group representing companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix, filed its own comments with the FCC. “Segregation of the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes will distort the market, discourage innovation and harm Internet users,” said Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman. “The FCC must act to create strong, enforceable Net Neutrality rules and apply them equally to both wireless and wireline providers.”
Many other prominent organizations and individuals have filed pro-Net Neutrality comments with the FCC; expect many more to do so in the coming weeks. The vast majority of the comments submitted so far slam Wheeler’s proposal and urge the FCC to do the right thing.
It takes just a few minutes to submit a comment; don’t miss your chance to weigh in.
Let’s make sure this is a week Wheeler and his fellow commissioners never forget.