Protesters interrupt FCC meeting

Protesters interrupt FCC meeting
© Greg Nash

The Federal Communications Commission's final meeting of the year Thursday was interrupted multiple times by protesters arguing for strict rules to enforce net neutrality.

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"You have just seen the First Amendment at work," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said after two individuals hoisted a banner behind the commissioners' dais that read "reclassify now."

Wheeler noted there were many students in the audience because the commission is voting on updates to the E-Rate Program, which helps provide Internet access to schools and libraries.

"This is what the country is all about," he said.

Wheeler had previously planned to have new net neutrality rules ready before the end of the year, but the unveiling of any new proposed rules was pushed back until early next year, following President Obama's recommendations for the strongest rules possible.

Last month, Obama called on the independent agency to reclassify broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The commission is considering a number of proposals, including hybrid options.

"Democracy depends on equal treatment for equal citizens," the first protester said before being escorted out.

Another said "we are sorry about interrupting your meeting," but noted the issue warranted the outburst.

Advocates, including the group Fight For the Future, had planned to hold protests outside the FCC building during the meeting.