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July web protest plan: What do we want? Net neutrality! Um, that's as far as we've got for now

Tech biz call for ideas to get FCC, lawmakers listening

By Kieren McCarthy, 6 Jun 2017

A slew of internet companies, including Amazon, Kickstarter, Reddit and Mozilla, have signed up for a "day of action" on July 12 in an effort to retain net neutrality rules.

The campaign hasn't decided yet what form the protest will take, but campaign director Evan Greer told The Register it will be designed to "display a prominent message" and contain "simple tools to allow people to contact lawmakers and the FCC."

"We are going public with the plan now so online communities have an opportunity to participate and to help with the creative brainstorming," Greer explained.

Previous actions on internet-related issues include:

  • An infamous online blackout in 2012 in which companies including Google, Wikipedia and Reddit replaced their websites with a simple page of protest over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
  • An internet slowdown in 2014 in which many homepages were replaced with the page-loading "spinning wheel of death" to highlight net neutrality issues.

Both campaigns were extremely effective: the first saw Congress unceremoniously dump the SOPA legislation (and related PIPA legislation), and the second led to the current net neutrality rules that make it illegal for ISPs to prioritize traffic.

Tougher

This time around, however, the challenge will be even larger: Ajit Pai, the chair of America's comms watchdog the FCC, has actively decided he wants to reverse the rules approved by his predecessor. The issue has also become a partisan one (thanks in no small part to a divide-and-conquer strategy by Big Cable), and both Congress and the president have expressed their intention to kill off the rules.

It is also clear from the announcement of the process to reverse the rules and the subsequent first stage in feedback that the FCC, Congress and Big Cable are coordinating with one another and actively preparing to counteract what they assume will be a huge wave of complaints against the move.

The protest is expected and those determined to tear up the rules are readying for it – which makes it all the more important for the campaign defending net neutrality to come up with a different approach if it is to have the desired impact.

More than 30 public interest groups and 15 large companies have signed on in support of the effort, the organizers say, and they hope to attract many more, including supporters of previous campaigns such as Google and Twitter. Amazon has not previously joined in with protests, so its inclusion – and enormous size and reach – may be critical in the campaign's success.

"There are lots of conversations on Reddit, and people can tweet ideas at us," said Greer. "We want to use social media to make people aware of what is going on." ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing