As part of nation-wide actions, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Verizon store on Market Street in downtown San Francisco to show opposition to the FCC decision on Nov. 21 to end net neutrality. Net neutrality is the simple principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon can’t tamper with websites we visit, selectively slowing down or blocking access entirely to sites and services they don’t like or that compete with their own services. The FCC announcement is in line with the Trump administration’s attacks on regulations on everything from business to education and the environment.
Verizon stores were chosen as the sites of protest because Ajit Pai, who was a former lawyer for Verizon, was appointed by Trump to lead the FCC. After leaving Verizon in 2003 and then serving in the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was a lawyer for the FCC during a time that it loosened or outright ignored many of its own regulations and further paved the way for mass concentration of media ownership. He was appointed in 2012 by Barack Obama as a member of the FCC and then unanimously confirmed in the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan support for Pai, his work on deregulation and his connections to lobbying firms and corporate megaconglomerates shows that his intentions are not to protect working people, but instead private profits.
Chanting, “Face Reality, We Need Net Neutrality,” and holding signs reading, “Say no to corporate control,” “#stopthefcc#,” “Public Internet is Right,” protesters passed out informational flyers to passersby, who were supportive of the action.
The battle for the Internet will be won not in Congress or even online, but in the streets by people saying “No more give away of public services to corporate profiteers.”