The Internet Speaks Up: FCC’s Fast Lane Proposal Would Be “A Cluster f**k Worse Than Comcast’s Customer Service”

The widget that sites supporting Battle For The Net are displaying today.

The widget that sites supporting Battle For The Net are displaying today.

It’s been a long road since an appeals court threw out the FCC’s Open Internet Rule — the one most of us call net neutrality — back in January. The FCC proposed a replacement rule in May, but there’s one small snag: it’s terrible. The proposal currently on the table would allow large ISPs to charge businesses for prioritized access, effectively splitting the internet into fast and slow lanes and choosing for consumers what sites and services they can best access. With the for-really-reals final deadline for the public to have its say fast approaching, today a large swath of the internet is speaking up for net neutrality and asking their visitors and customers to do the same.

During the first comment period, late-night comedian John Oliver ended up breaking the FCC’s comment site, but that didn’t stop the internet from having its say. Comments are still pouring in — at last count, the FCC had received over 1.3 million — and organizers of the Battle For The Net protest are hoping for one large, final push.

Internet-based businesses are joining the chorus. Etsy, Reddit, and Netflix are all displaying banners urging site visitors to contact lawmakers in support of net neutrality. Kickstarter has devoted their front page to the effort. And Tumblr, in true Tumblr fashion, has simply created a post that is quickly finding its way reblogged through the service — complete with a video featuring explosions, explanations, and actor Mark Ruffalo.

Other major internet companies, including WordPress and Mozilla, are also backing the effort.

Some lawmakers have jumped in as well, including Senators Ed Markey (MA) and Angus King (ME).

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian urged businesses and consumers to participate in the protest in an op-ed for The Verge. Ohanian called today’s internet “the most democratic vehicle for free expression the world has ever known,” adding, “It’s an open and free market for small and large businesses, giving any inventor in her garage the hope that she’s creating tomorrow’s Google or next year’s Facebook. It’s where we build friendships, conduct commerce, create and destroy; it’s where we live more and more of our lives everyday.”

That, Ohanian said, is why the FCC’s proposal must not go through. It would be a disaster of the most epic proportions: “We can’t let this happen. Really,” Ohanian wrote. “This would be a clusterfuck worse than Comcast’s customer service.”

Consumer advocacy groups are not in the business of sick burns, as Ohanian apparently is, but they too have been objecting to Wheeler’s “fast lane” proposal in strong terms.

The ACLU, which is advocating for Title II classification as well as asking the FCC to hold hearings on the matter outside of Washington, D.C., writes, “You wouldn’t like the Internet when it’s angry. And it’s kinda angry,” before describing all of the ways fast lanes would hurt individuals and small businesses.

Public Knowledge said in a blog post that, “We are thrilled to see so many sites speaking out about the real impact of net neutrality. These sites rely on an open Internet, and they know that without strong rules upholding net neutrality their future is in peril.”

Free Press is one of the groups helping organize today’s protest. Their president and CEO Craig Aaron said, “The Internet is united against the FCC’s Net Neutrality-killing proposal.” He added, “Today we’ll see the Internet slow down as millions of people rise up against this threat to our rights to connect and communicate. There aren’t many issues that could bring together such a diverse array of groups, big platforms, small businesses, elected officials and everyday people, all of them urging the FCC to protect real Net Neutrality.”

Our colleagues down the hall at Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, are also participating in and supporting the protest.

Over 1 million individuals and organizations filed comments in the first comment period, which ended on July 15. While some were on the rude side, the vast majority both objected to the idea of paid “fast lane” prioritization and also recommended the FCC consider Title II common carrier classification for broadband services.

Comcast, of course, is happy to object to the movement, just as they were happy to embrace the idea of fast lanes when the FCC proposed it.

Even as the reply comment period winds down — the deadline for submitting comments is this Monday, September 15 — the conversation on net neutrality is building up. On Tuesday, September 16, the FCC will be hosting a policy roundtable meeting discussing policy approaches to open internet regulation, and on Wednesday, September 17, Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on net neutrality.

If you’d like to add your two cents, you can jump in at Battle For The Net. Or if you don’t like form letters, check out our guides on how to leave a comment with the FCC and how to contact your Senators and Representatives.

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