The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications and Technology is expected to hold a markup and vote on the Save the Internet Act (HR 1644) as soon as next week. Internet activists are planning an online protest (click on the link here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/#watch) , starting Monday, with the intention of making the livestream of what would otherwise be a relatively obscure procedural vote go viral, to show lawmakers on the committee that “The Whole Internet is Watching.”
Fight for the Future has built a simple widget (link to widget here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/images/watch-widget-screenshot.jpg) allowing any website to embed the livestream of the markup vote on their homepage or blog. They plan to place the livestream on BattleForTheNet.com and are encouraging organizations and individuals to share it widely on social media, encouraging their audiences to watch the livestream and contact Congress.
The Save the Internet Act is the only real net neutrality legislation in play this Congress, but telecom lobbyists have been pushing hard for the committee to gut the bill with hostile amendments that create massive loopholes for ISPs to abuse, making this subcommittee markup vote perhaps the most important hurdle for the bill to clear. Cable-friendly Democrats in California attempted a similar ploy to gut the state net neutrality bill SB 822, but were forced to change course after the move generated massive backlash.
In-person protests and petition deliveries are also planned for today at district offices as national attention has focused on five Democrats on the committee, four of whom––Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and Kurt Schraeder (D-OR) are among the few Democrats who have not cosponsored HR 1644. Darren Soto (D-FL) is a cosponsor of the bill but indicated during a recent hearing that he was open to amendments that could weaken the bill. All five of these members have taken significant contributions from the telecom industry.
“Politicians seem to still be under the false impression that they put the interests of giant telecom companies ahead of the basic rights of their constituents and get away with it,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, the digital rights group organizing the protest, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so we’re going to make sure that when they go to vote they know the whole Internet is watching their every move. The overwhelming majority of voters want real net neutrality protections restored, they’re not going to tolerate any funny business or trojan horse amendments pushed for by telecom lobbyists.”