On Thursday, May 15, a group of 20 or so protesters stand proudly amidst sporadic rainfall outside of the FCC offices in New York City, urging that the Internet be kept “open and free.”
Organized by the petition website MoveOn.org, protesters of all ages, races, and nationalities clutter the sidewalk on Varick street in West VIllage, united over one cause: net neutrality.
“Hey hey, FCC, keep our Internet open and free!” the group chants in unison. Many carry signs, which despite being smudged by the rain are held and waved above the small sea of heads and umbrellas.
The rain could certainly be perceived as metaphorical tears over the possibility each protester fears: that once again, net neutrality rules which would provide ISP regulations and traffic equality for all websites, are struck down.
“I’m really scared, just really scared,” says Debra Rosario of the matter. A flight attendant from the Bronx, 47-year-old Debra Rosario gets all her news and information from the Internet, and worries that this freedom will be taken away from her.
A ruling against net neutrality would by nature skew odds in favor of companies willing to pay extra for “fast lanes” from ISPs, which control how fast Internet users can access content.
Currently, companies can and do pay ISPs for traffic priority, which many argue is damaging to smaller companies and entrepreneurs, quieting a chorus of underdogs vital to the world wide web.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler appeared briefly to address the crowd, voicing his agreement with the protesters’ cause.
The FCC only “pays lip service to net neutrality,” he says, adding that “this is a monopoly of the Internet that stifles innovation,” and that telecoms should have been classified as common carriers to begin with.
In his speech, Nadler also says he “urges the president to put his weight behind it,” and that others should as well. Though admittedly, Obama does not have final say in the matter, Nadler believes his influence would be important to the cause.
Though the protest seems to prove that America is in a struggle for Internet rights, it is also shows that there are at least some level of public conversation going on.
“… it is really awesome,” says Valentin Drean, 24, a French tourist and activist attending the rally, which he heard about on the radio.
“It gives hope that in America there’s a real debate about this,” Drean says.
The future of net neutrality may be undeterminable, but the passion of those that support it, even in the rain, is as solid as a rock.