Sarbanes holds public forum on net neutrality

On Wednesday, members from BMore Indivisible attended a public forum organized by Representative John Sarbanes (MD-3) on net neutrality which featured a panel including former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Kurt Walters, campaign director for Demand Progress, an activist group leading the charge on protecting net neutrality.

Representative Sarbanes stressed the importance of net neutrality and an open internet for start ups to be able to compete with larger companies and for individuals to be able to exercise free speech.

David Goldman, who works in the Sarbanes office, explained how current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is attacking net neutrality, not by publicly opposing the basic principles that it stands for, but by undermining the legal basis with which the FCC provides oversight of telecommunications companies to protect net neutrality.

Tom Wheeler, former FCC Chairman under the Obama administration, explained that, to consumers, an internet without net neutrality would more closely resemble cable television – tiered payment plans with premium/prioritized content, no competition, and no oversight. He explained that the FCC is targeting Title II, a provision that is critical for the FCC to be able to provide oversight of telecom companies.

Kurt Walters outlined the current grassroots effort to oppose the FCC actions, including the Battle for the Net, an online resource that helps connect people with tools to help them fight for net neutrality. He said there are three things that we can all do to fight for net neutrality:

  1. Submit a public comment supporting net neutrality to the FCC by the Aug 16 deadline.
  2. Call your member of Congress and ask them to support net neutrality.
  3. Call people you know around the country, particularly in ‘swing’ states, and ask them to call their member of Congress

Public comments submitted to the FCC are critical to protecting net neutrality. Representative Sarbanes explained that, although over 13m comments have already been submitted, a vast majority supporting net neutrality, FCC Chairman Pai seems intent on moving forward with their rule changes against Title II. In the inevitable legal action that will follow, the FCC will have to justify its actions in response to this overwhelming public opposition in court.

In 2014-15, grassroots efforts led to the submission of over 4m public comments to the FCC and resulted in the 2015 rules protecting net neutrality that the FCC is currently seeking to overturn.

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