Demonstrators, supporting net neutrality, protest a plan by the Federal Communications Commission to repeal restrictions on internet service providers during a protest outside a Verizon store on December 7, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Pointing to months of national protests, critics of Pai’s plan charge that Americans “are sick and tired of the naked pay-to-play corporatism on display in tomorrow’s vote.”
By Jessica Corbett / 12.13.2017
Despite new polling that shows more than 80 percent of Americans oppose Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality protections for the internet—which has provoked months of national protests—the FCC is disregarding that concern and carried out its scheduled vote on the proposal Thursday.
The University of Maryland survey (pdf), published Monday, prepared respondents to weigh in by first providing them with policy briefs from both sides—Pai and major internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, who claim the protections are a burdern, versus consumer groups and tech companies that argue net neutrality is the foundation on which the internet is built.
Although about 48 percent said Pai’s argument that “rules restricting ISPs are unnecessarily heavy‐handed and stifle innovation” was convincing, more than 75 percent were convinced the rollback would “basically giv[e] ISPs a license to steal from consumers.”
Ultimately, 83 percent of registered voters—75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats, and 86 percent of Independents—said they oppose Pai’s plan to allow service providers to control download speeds, limit or block access to certain websites, and charge consumers extra fees for broader access.
“A decision to repeal net neutrality would be tacking against strong headwinds of public opinion blowing in the opposite direction,” said Steven Kull, who directs the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, which conducted the poll.
Responding to concerns over the proposed rollback, members of Congress on Wednesday condemned the plan and numerous lawmakers, from both major parties, have joined calls on Pai to delay the vote or abandon the effort completely.
“Repealing net neutrality rules will benefit just a few powerful corporations—and it will do so at the expense of small businesses, consumers, and hardworking Americans, whose persistent and passionate voices on this issue have been completely ignored by the FCC’s Republican majority,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on the floor of the Senate this week. “This is not about partisanship. Republicans and Democrats alike benefit from the power of an open Internet, and equally stand to be harmed if the rules of the road ensuring its openness go away.”
The widespread opposition is visible online and in the streets, as a massive mobilization against the upcoming vote continues across the web and with hundreds expected to turn out on Thursday morning for a demonstration at FCC headquarters.
The Net Neutrality Wake-Up Call Rally—as Thursday’s protest is being called—is hosted by Voices for Internet Freedom, a coalition that focuses on the digital rights of communities of color and includes Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund, 18 Million Rising, the Center for Media Justice, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
The rally will feature speakers from some of those organizations as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
“Nationwide voters are rising up against the unjust, immoral, and unseemly role of corporate money in our political system. They are sick and tired of the naked pay-to-play corporatism on display in tomorrow’s vote,” said Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as a special adviser to Common Cause.
Copps warned that with the vote, the internet could become “a shadowy world of monopoly, commercialism, and conspiracy in restraint of democracy that totally subverts the promise of what might have been.”
“There is still time to pull back from the precipice but unfortunately it is hard to imagine Ajit Pai reversing course and voting in the public’s interest on net neutrality. The will of the American people has been ignored to date for the benefit of deep-pocketed special interests,” Copps concluded, alluding to Pai’s ties to companies that stand to benefit from his proposals—from his “massive handout” to Sinclair Broadcast Group by rolling back media ownership rules to appeasing Verizon by dismantling net neutrality.