The FCC voted on Thursday to move ahead a proposal that internet freedom advocates say could eliminate free and open internet access
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Over several disruptions, the FCC voted Thursday to move ahead with the proposal FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says will preserve net neutrality. Digital rights activists say it will do the opposite.
KEVIN ZEESE, OCCUPY THE FCC: Excuse me. My name is Kevin Zeese. I’m with Popular Resistance. We were camping outside the last week. We want to let you know this is a moment of a crisis in our democracy. We’re not seeing the people ruling any longer. And the process that has been going on in the FCC, where Comcast seems to rule, is an example of the lack of legitimacy of our democracy. And we want to make sure that people understand the context of this is that we have an illegitimate democracy and we have the people ruling. It’s obvious [incompr.] a common carrier. It brings us all equally to the net, where we can all [incompr.] without any prejudice or bias and without any kind of discrimination. We don’t want to see that end. We want to see the FCC do its job and regulate the internet for the people, not to regulate it for the corporations. We don’t want [incompr.] influence Comcast; we [incompr.] influence the people.
NOOR: Kevin Zeese is one of a group of activists who camped out in front of FCC headquarters for the past week, ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
MARGARET FLOWERS, OCCUPY THE FCC: My name is Margaret Flowers. I’m also with PopularResistance.org. In the 21st century, the internet is our free speech, but in this country, we’re losing our right to free speech. The internet was created with our public dollars as part of the public commons. It should never have been reclassified. We need to put it back [incompr.] reclassify it. This is our First Amendment right.
NOOR: What triggered public and congressional outcry ahead of the meeting is a provision in the proposed rule that will allow providers to charge more for faster content distribution, a so-called internet fast lane. FCC Chairman Wheeler, a former telecom lobbyist, says his proposal will balance the interest of the public and those of internet service providers.
TOM WHEELER, CHAIRMAN, FCC: We start with a simple, obvious premise: protecting the open internet is important for both consumers and economic growth. We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open internet.
NOOR: Digital rights advocates argue that by going ahead with the plan as written, the FCC will actually create a two-tiered system which favors telecom giants and media conglomerates.
Craig Aaron is president of the open internet advocacy group Free Press.
CRAIG AARON, PRESIDENT, FREE PRESS: Well, the chairman of the FCC is arguing that he can protect the open internet via these rules. I don’t agree with him. He spoke passionately about the open internet and how important it is to him during his statement today at the meeting. Unfortunately, the reality of what’s in the rules doesn’t match up with the rhetoric.
NOOR: Aaron says the most effective way to preserve net neutrality is by reclassifying broadband as a public utility, which would grant the agency greater regulatory powers.
AARON: The FCC faced a choice. They face two paths. They could do what’s called reclassifying broadband under the Communications Act, restoring the legal authority that they themselves gave up during the Bush administration, or they could take this convoluted, confusing approach that they chose to take. So we’re really urging them to go back, reverse the mistakes of the past, and assert their clear authority under the law to protect internet users.
NOOR: Another criticism of the proposed rule is that two-tiered access will disproportionately impact the low income and people of color. Fight for the Future’s campaign manager, Kevin Huang, also participated in this week’s Occupy the FCC protest encampment.
KEVIN HUANG, FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE: I think that the ISPs are proposing to be able to marginalize groups within the internet between a slow lane and a fast lane, definitely marginalize people of color, women of color, folks who have always been marginalized in society, especially. I come from a background of community organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I personally know that folks who, for example, don’t have the resources to pay, specifically, people of color and people of low socio-economic status are going to be especially affected if the ISPs win this fight to create a slow lane for the internet.
NOOR: Thursday’s vote opened a four-month public comment period. Advocates say their next step is to rally broad public participation from citizens who want to preserve the egalitarian nature of the internet.
Reporting for FSRN and The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.