Activists promise nationwide net neutrality demonstrations on Thursday

Activists promise nationwide net neutrality demonstrations on Thursday
© Greg Nash

Net neutrality supporters are carrying out nationwide demonstrations on Thursday against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plans to repeal its landmark restrictions on internet service providers.

Pro-net neutrality groups Free Press, Fight for the Future and Demand Progress will be leading protests at Verizon stores across the country, congressional district offices and a Washington, D.C., hotel where FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will speak Thursday night.

“Under Pai’s leadership the FCC has made a mockery of our democratic process,” Evan Greer, Fight for the Future’s campaign director, said in a statement. “With a rogue FCC commissioner blatantly captured by the industry he is supposed to provide oversight for, Congress must do their job and take action to stop the FCC vote on Dec. 14.”

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The activists are targeting Verizon over its support for the repeal of the rules, which prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet “fast lanes.” They also suspect close ties between the industry giant and the FCC chairman, who as a Verizon lawyer in the past.

"Like those expressing their views today, Verizon fully supports an open Internet and believe consumers should be able to use it to access lawful content when, where, and how they want,” Verizon spokesman Rich Young said in a statement. “We've publicly committed to that before and we stand by that commitment today."

According to the protestors’ website, the groups are expecting demonstrations at 700 Verizon stores across all 50 states.

Net neutrality supporters have been rallying in a last-ditch effort to save the rules ahead of the Dec. 14 FCC vote to scrap them. With Republicans in control of a majority of the FCC’s seats, Pai’s plan is expected to pass.

The FCC chairman is arguing that the rules are too heavy-handed and have stifled innovation and investment in the broadband industry. Pai has also turned his attention to Silicon Valley, saying that web companies like Facebook and Google are a much greater threat to internet speech than broadband providers.