The FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, voted to repeal Net Neutrality last December, a decision that would hand the internet to big service providers, allowing them to have control over the speed of your internet plus charging you extra for sites you already subscribe to like Netflix and Hulu. This would mean the end of the free and open internet as we know it – but fortunately, Senate Democrats have a way to stop it, and they need your help.
Today the Democrats, led by Massachusetts’ Ed Markey, announced a resolution of disapproval against the FCC’s decision to repeal Net Neutrality. This tactic, made legal by the Congressional Review Act, means that Congress can strike down a decision made by an agency (such as the FCC) with a simple majority vote – no 60-vote majority needed, just 51. The Democrats already have their entire caucus behind them, plus Maine Republican Susan Collins, meaning they have 50 votes. If they get one more Republican to break ranks and join them, they can strike a major blow to the FCC.
Measures to repeal Net Neutrality are unpopular with Democrats and internet pioneers like Steve Wozniak and Tim Berners-Lee, who have called it “an imminent threat to the internet we worked so hard to create.” Pai, who only wants to serve the corporations, doesn’t care. In a recent CNBC interview, he blasted these complaints as “fearmongering,” remarking, “I think 2½ months later people are still using the internet. The internet still works.” This is the internet equivalent of saying global warming isn’t real because it snowed last night – the only reason we haven’t lost net neutrality yet is that the repeal has not gone into effect (and there is no set date for when it will.)
In an op-ed today in Wired, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote:
Just weeks after giving the wealthy and multinational corporations a massive tax break, Republicans are adding insult to injury by once again picking CEOs over citizens. The FCC’s new rule isn’t going to make the country any more competitive or prosperous. In fact, it may make us less competitive by lining the pockets of a handful of ISPs, who will use their new profits to buy back stock and boost dividends for their investors (just as so many other corporations have done in the wake of the Republican tax bill).
Net Neutrality is vital for the future of the internet, especially for sites like this one. This week, thanks to Facebook’s overactive spam filter, I got blocked from sharing my articles in the groups I usually post in, and can’t do a thing about it for the next week. Think about how much worse this would be without Net Neutrality – anybody who works for this kind of site would have difficulty spreading their content if they were charged extra to use Facebook and Twitter. Worse of all, what if the ISPs decided to go after small, independent websites because they didn’t like the content they put out? The Daily Banters of this world would be snuffed out, starved to death in a war of attrition.
This is where you come in. If you live in a state with Republican Senators who still haven’t made a decision (excluding Maine), go to Battleforthenet.com and contact your representatives. Get involved with the site and they’ll send you updates on what you can do, and where you can find rallies supporting Net Neutrality. Getting one more vote in the Senate will send the bill to the House, where its odds of passing are steep, but any victory we can achieve will send a message to Trump and his corporate overlords that we the people will not allow our voices to be stifled. We must band together and save the internet, not for politics, but for decency.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.