Net neutrality protests coming to a Verizon store near you today

ICYMI: Next week the FCC will vote on a plan to scrap its own 2015 regulations, called the Open Internet Order, which will prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down access to any sites they don’t care for. Having disliked the regulations since he was in the political minority on the commission, the Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai now has a 3:2 Republican majority to abolish them, which he plans to do at a commission meeting on December 14.

Slim as their prospects may be, pro-regulation activists are turning to a bitterly divided Congress, pressuring politicians to intervene and prevent the FCC vote. A coalition called Team Internet is coordinating flash demonstrations around the country today to stir up the public. And they are making it personal by protesting outside stores of Pai’s former employer (where he worked from 2001 to 2003)—Verizon, claiming that, “the company has been spending millions on lobbying and lawsuits to kill net neutrality so they can gouge us all for more money.”

The protest’s website includes a map of about 700 locations in the U.S. where actions have been taking place throughout the day, from 8 a.m. on the East Coast to 6 p.m. on the West Coast. There are also be protests at intersections and near 40 congressional offices. Expected turnout is unknown, but the locations all have at least one person listed as a host. Photos are being gathered on Flickr. The organizers have published a Google doc with instructions for protesters including a statement to read and suggested chants.

No matter how convincing the protesters are, it’s unclear if Congress even has the power to stop the FCC. “Political power, definitely,” says Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, which supports the regulations. “Direct power to tell the FCC what to do, less clear, but the FCC is created by and overseen by Congress. So it’s not inaccurate to say. It’s just not something for which there is a formal or routine mechanism.”

Map of planned protests at Verizon stores and other locations. [Image: Team Internet]