Despite the calls to Congress, despite public protests, and despite anything resembling the Democratic process, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has now voted to rescind the laws regulating the free and open use of the internet, laws that took years to analyze, build, and finally implement. The facts were misrepresented at all turns regarding what this issue has been about. They call it “restoring internet freedom.” It’s the exact opposite. The only winners in this deregulation are Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, i.e., the internet providers who control the pipelines. The FCC board, run by a former lawyer for Verizon, cast their votes to decide this issue. The vote was 3 votes to kill Net Neutrality, 2 votes to save it (my profound thanks to those two supporters). Think about that. Net Neutrality laws passed in 2015 were passed to safeguard online freedom for all after two administrations helped to create them. Both Bush and Obama fought for this, recognizing the need. Because Obama’s name was on it, it became a partisan issue after the fact, the history of how this came to pass lost in the political rhetoric. Today, one single vote — the vote of the former Verizon lawyer chairing the FCC, appointed to the post by Donald Trump — was the pre-decided vote that determined that democratization of the internet should have a stake through the heart. One single vote. Does this sound right to anyone?
Everyone else from the top down loses in one way or another if this goes forward. It is the standard practice that market forces will ideally balance things out, until they don’t, until such a point as all market forces within a given circle decide that they will all act to raise their mutual profits.
I have heard many out there saying that they can get around this censorship through the use of a VPN that ghosts an IP address. The problem with that theory is that while the VPN will keep a person anonymous (and is a great idea for purposes of deterring illegal or otherwise unwanted tracking), a user still has to connect to their internet provider to connect to the VPN servers. ISPs can simply throttle any VPN traffic at the source.
Instead of bitching about the obvious, I want to offer a counterpoint. A glimmer of hope. A declaration of WAR.
My fellow Americans, your liberties have just been trampled. The FCC has issued an order on the wrong side of history. Do you want those liberties back? Read the following carefully, because it’s not over until WE say it’s over. If we give up, we make that declaration and let the FCC win. If we continue to fight, we can return the internet to its level playing field.
Before the vote went through this morning, I received the following email from Holmes and Tiffany at Fight For the Future.
This is an *extremely* important update on our strategy. Please read it to the end if you can.
Today, the FCC will likely vote to end the net neutrality rules. Once that happens, there is one thing we have to do: get Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to stop the FCC order.
The CRA lets our elected officials in Congress nullify actions by Federal agencies like the FCC. Most bills need 60 votes in the Senate, but the CRA only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate.
This isn’t easy. We’ll have to apply a ton of pressure to Congress in creative ways. But with the momentum we have right now, we think we’re close.
In the Senate we may be starting at 50/50. Meanwhile, 83% of voters support net neutrality and the level of public outcry (we’re sure you’ve seen it too) has been just off the charts. This is winnable.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a few things in particular working well.
Sheer numbers of phone calls, tweets and emails generated from traffic to BattleForTheNet.com. We harnessed so much traffic from YouTubers, reddit posts, instagram celebs, big links, widgets, and modals on popular websites, games, and forums, and we turned it into massive constituent pressure on Congress. We heard again and again from staffers that the number of calls was critical in whether lawmakers’ decided to come out opposing the FCC.
Local pressure. The open Internet will live or die by this. If we can get dozens of smart, persuasive people who understand this issue walking into Congressional offices anywhere in the country, representing local businesses and professional networks, that is *very* powerful. So think about how you can build a local team to laser focus on your members of Congress, and join Team Internet.
People freaking out and talking incessantly about this on the Internet. This sounds like a joke but it’s not. From our perspective as seasoned activists, the ambient freak-out is actually working to build public consensus and pressure Congress. It works especially well if you’re making good arguments to people who aren’t convinced yet, or giving informed updates on the strategy. (For example, talking about the CRA strategy right now is *really* helpful.)
Super volunteers. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a few “super volunteers, working locally or nationally, bringing real pressure to Congress. Usually these folks have either local activism experience, general professional skills from the tech or business world, or both. They also have some consistent amount of time they can devote, because it can take a bit to pick up steam. If you’re interested in this, please be in touch and tell us about your background. You can just reply to this email and we’ll see it.
Making sure everyone realizes this not a partisan issue, and conservatives winning over other conservatives. The ISPs have worked hard to make this a partisan issue because that was their plan to kill net neutrality. But that’s all falling apart now. 75% of Republican voters are against the FCC’s plan when they hear arguments for and against. Tons of young conservatives on the Internet—especially folks with a tech background—totally get this issue and are fighting like crazy for it. You can see this everywhere, from reddit, to 4chan, to Breitbart. So we’re winning there, but we have to keep at it. I still hear from older conservatives like my uncle who still think these ISP talking points are real. Somebody needs to convince him, and it will probably have to be another conservative, on the Internet. You usually don’t win lasting victories by ramming things through; you need to convince people. What your friends and family think matters.
Focusing pressure. We’re building out our scoreboard so we can track who has committed to vote for the CRA and who hasn’t yet, and make sure everyone on the Internet has the latest shareable intel. We’ll also highlight the members of Congress we think are most likely to agree with us or be persuadable, based on past votes or statements. That scoreboard will be our todolist for the next couple months.
To step back a bit, here’s how we see this working.
When you have an overwhelming consensus and passionate support (and zero passion on the other side) lobbyists can hold you back for a while. But if you’re relentless, at some point they mess up or run out of gas and you win. We can make that happen now. And it’s amazing work to do because, as we do it, we’ll actually be learning how to use the Internet to turn good ideas that everyone agrees with into political victories (against bogus scams everyone dislikes), while protecting the Internet as a place where this kind of thing can happen more and more often! Possibly nothing is more important for the future of humanity than that.
On Tuesday we did 100,000 phone calls, and 1,000,000 phone calls since July. Before Thanksgiving, 500,000 calls came out of organic traffic, unplanned. Yesterday, an SMS shortcode for texting Congress was trending on Twitter. When’s the last time that happened? Answer: never. These things simply do not happen. We’ve never seen this before. And that’s really important because, when the unprecedented becomes the norm, the limits on what you can win disappear. And winning a CRA vote isn’t even the hardest thing to do. (Remember, you just need a simple majority, not a filibuster-proof lead.)
I hope we painted as clear as possible a picture for you of where we’re going. It’s really important that you know the plan, because that’s how people get powerful together!
On your home turf, with your own members of Congress, the Internet can teach you to be more powerful than the best lobbyists any money can hire.
And there are millions of you.
Good ideas are gonna spread, and they’re gonna win.
-Holmes and Tiffiny at Fight for the Future
I urge every single American who wants the free and open internet to remain free and open to click the links in the above letter, continue to contact Congress directly by phone, and continue to spread the word and keep this trending EVERY SINGLE DAY until they act in our favor because it will absolutely die in whispers otherwise. Yes, it will be tough. Yes, it will be tiresome. It must be relentless. To do otherwise is unthinkable. A lapse in determination will lead to negative momentum that will lose the internet as we know it.
I also urge everyone to support these organizations who are organizing these grass roots efforts on our behalf. Again, click the links in the above letter. Check them out and see if they’re worth your time and money.
As a friend in Portugal so eloquently stated yesterday, America is the land of the free. Let’s all do our part to remind our elected officials that they work for us, not the other way around. Put aside the partisan rhetoric and do what must be done to preserve what we have. To that end, make sure to tell every single Senator and State Representative that they must do their part to preserve and restore Net Neutrality, or they will lose their jobs in the next election cycle to a candidate with vision who will choose to serve the wishes of the people. It really is just that simple.
The internet has continued to evolve. It will continue to do so. For the American people to be a part of that evolution, the playing field must remain level so that everyone can interact and create. Right now, the internet is officially being held for ransom in this country. Once this freedom is gone, it’ll be harder to get it back. It’s up to us to put things right… before it’s too late.
You choose with your actions from this moment forward.