Approximately 200-250 people jammed the sidewalk in front of the Verizon store at 768 Market Street December 7 to protest efforts by the Trump regime to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality.
“Why are we out here in front of Verizon, other than that they’re an ISP and they suck?” asked Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance and one of the protest’s organizers. “It’s because they’re Ajit Pai’s employer.”
Pai, a Republican whom Trump named to be chair of the FCC, worked as an attorney for Verizon from 2001 through 2003.
Since 2015, the FCC has formally required internet service providers to treat all internet traffic equally. This prevents ISPs from charging customers extra to access certain content (e.g. Netflix), charging more for faster speed, or blocking certain sites entirely.
If, as expected, the FCC approves the repeal proposal Thursday (December 14), ISPs like Verizon and Comcast would be able to discriminate against (or in favor of) certain types of traffic so long as they disclosed these policies to the consumer.
However, given the dominance of major providers like Comcast and AT&T in many local markets, net neutrality activists fear simply requiring ISPs to disclose predatory commercial behavior will do little or nothing to restrain or deter that behavior.
Rosenberg said Pai’s claim that the Federal Trade Commission, rather than the FCC, could regulate ISPs was deeply flawed, given the progress of a case filed by AT&T (which is now at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) that challenges the FTC’s jurisdiction to act in this area.
“They might win,” she said, referring to AT&T’s case against the FTC. In that case, said Rosenberg, neither the FCC nor the FTC might be able to rein in the ISPs.
“All we’re talking about here is whether anyone gets to tell AT&T and Verizon what to do,” she said.