Net Neutrality Protesters Gear Up For a Fight

On Dec. 7 a Verizon store on Market Street will be ground zero for net neutrality activists.

A protester at a White House protest to save net neutrality, Nov. 6 2014 (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

The fight for net neutrality will hit San Francisco early next month, as a massive, nationwide protest is scheduled for Verizon stores on Dec. 7. 

For the uninitiated: Net neutrality is something we all enjoy, but may not consciously notice. As a society, we generally take for granted that websites, news, and other online information are accessible regardless of the mobile carrier you pay each month, or the search engines you use. But as censorship looms, that freedom is under a serious threat.

Verizon is the latest technology giant to play a role in killing net neutrality — thanks in part to Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and a former lawyer for the cell phone company. In the past year, Verizon has spent millions on lawsuits and lobbying efforts to destroy net neutrality, and thereby up the fees for consumers.

Now, those consumers and others in opposition to net neutrality are speaking out. One week before the FCC votes on its plan to kill net neutrality on Dec. 14, protestors are taking to the streets and to Verizon stores across the country. 

And unlike other protests that have taken place in 2017 — such as the well-intentioned but sadly vague Women’s March — the demands are crystal clear. 

“We’re calling on our lawmakers to do their job overseeing the FCC and speak out against Ajit Pai’s plan to gut Title II net neutrality protections and give Verizon and other giant ISPs everything on their holiday wishlist,” the protest website states.

And Mayor Ed Lee might even make an appearance. He sent out a statement Tuesday blasting Pai’s efforts.

“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to repeal net neutrality is the latest effort from this administration to favor the short-term interests of large corporations at the expense of the greater public good,” Lee says. “Net neutrality encourages entrepreneurship, provides educational opportunities, and connects communities across the globe.

“While the FCC moves to repeal these crucial protections, San Francisco is joining cities across the country in exploring options to make the internet safe, affordable, and accessible for all our residents. The internet is an essential tool of today’s society and under the current net neutrality rules, it is a powerful force for openness, freedom, and innovation. We must continue to fight against the FCC’s efforts to dismantle those principles,” he says.

While passions will undoubtedly run high, particularly in a city as tech-hungry as this one, the protest organizers call for a reasonable understanding of who’s actually in power here. “Please remember, this event is about protesting actions of Verizon executives, lobbyists and their supporters in Washington, not the employees at these stores,” they state. “Please treat them with nothing but the utmost respect.”

San Francisco’s Verizon protest will take place on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m., at the Verizon store at 768 Market St. 

More information about the protest can be found here.

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