National Coalition Gears Up to Oppose Trump FCC Net Neutrality Repeal

Posted Dec. 6, 2017

MP3 Interview with Steven Renderos, organizing director with the group the Center for Media Justice, conducted by Scott Harris

internet

President Trump’s appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, has from the beginning of his tenure at the FCC pledged to reverse consumer protections initiated during President Obama’s eight years in office. Now, Pai and the Republican majority on the FCC are expected to vote on a resolution to kill net neutrality on Dec. 14.

Net neutrality, which was ratified by the FCC under President Obama in February 2015, prevents big Internet service providers like AT&T Comcast and Verizon from charging extra fees, engaging in censorship, or controlling what consumers see and do on the web by slowing down or denying access to websites, apps, and other online services. A nationwide protest is planned for Dec. 7, when activists opposed to the scrapping of net neutrality will demonstrate at Verizon retail stores, demanding that members of Congress take action to stop Trump’s FCC from eliminating net neutrality protections.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Steven Renderos, organizing director with the group the Center for Media Justice, whose mission is to address inequities in media access and coverage in diverse communities. Here, Renderos discusses his group's campaign to stop the FCC's plan to repeal net neutrality and explain how that action would negatively impact Internet freedom and the ability of marginalized communities to freely communicate.

STEVEN RENDEROS: The FCC, under the Obama administration, passed these rules in 2015. And under the two years we've had net neutrality as a general law, they've been challenged in court and won. But essentially, we've maintained the Internet as we've always had it. And in fact, it's been the strongest set of rules that protect the Internet, that we've seen anywhere in the world. So it's really like the shining example of the absolute most of what you can do with net neutrality – is to treat the Internet more like public utility because it is for those of us on a day-to-day basis that are using the the Internet to search for jobs, or pay our bills or search the Internet for our education. We experience it more as a utility than we do as a commodity.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Steven, could you describe for our listeners a bit of the impact of repealing net neutrality on political speech, and in particular, for marginalized communities. People of color, people with disabilities, etc.

STEVEN RENDEROS: Well, first the biggest impact is going to be "what is Internet going to look like without net neutrality?" Imagine that. We don't have to step too far away from what we already experience. For those of us who are unfortunately having to pay for cable TV, the experience of paying for access to certain content feels very familiar.

When it comes to a pay-for-play Internet, your Internet service provider is in the driver's seat about what content you can access. And believe me, getting access to the latest protest against Trump for the GOP tax plan or latest information about the Russia investigation or the organizing against police violence that Black Lives Matter activists are engaging in, the protests over the Keystone Pipeline – those are not things that are going to rise up to the surface as priorities for a pay-for-play Internet. So, the things that we depend on to find out about the resistance that is happening under this current administration, those voices would essentially be silenced under an Internet in which who has the most amount of money gets to determine what content you have access to.

The Internet ecosystem where you have conservatives that are running a lot of the cable TV and news information that we see out there – it's a very dangerous world. And for communities of color in particular, it's a very familiar experience.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You're part of a large coalition, your group, the Center for Media Justice. What is being planned to effectively oppose the move by Donald Trump's FCC to repeal net neutrality? What can be done both on the grassroots level as well as legal challenges in court to what the FCC has planned?

STEVEN RENDEROS: As much as the chairman of the FCC has demonstrated that he's unwilling to listen to the public, we still feel we have a pretty good shot at saving the Internet. So a lot of what you've seen over the last couple weeks is a massive uprising of people generating calls into Congress because even though the FCC is an independent agency, Congress still oversees the FCC. And so they have a role to play in providing leadership in this moment to demonstrate that we don't want to see net neutrality go away.

So, since the chairman announced that he was going to move forward on a vote in December to repeal net neutrality, in the last week and a half, two weeks, 750,000 calls have gone into Congress. And this is both to hit Democrats and Republicans in Congress. And we've seen a steady stream of Republicans coming out and publicly voicing opposition to what Chairman Pai is trying to do at the FCC.

In addition to that, there are a set of nationwide protests that are being organized for Thursday, Dec. 7, targeting the largest Internet service provider in the country, Verizon, who has been actively lobbying to repeal net neutrality.

At the same time, there's a legal strategy to this. While our coalition is considering our legal options, including lawsuits after Dec. 14 when the FCC votes, we're also seeing attorney generals stepping in, like in New York. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pushing forward a lawsuit – really calling out the fake comments that have come into the FCC from bots and possibly even from Russia trying to populate the FCC docket with fake comments that support net neutrality repeal.

Tell your friends about this issue. It's vastly important that people know that this is an issue that we could very well lose over the coming weeks. But with people's support and their action, there's a really good chance that we can win.

For more information, visit the Center for Media Justice at centerformediajustice.org.

Related Links:



Subscribe and get Between The Lines' Weekly Summary in your inbox!