Early this morning, a group of about 100 people were gathered in the freezing weather outside FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s office, doing anything they could to lobby him before Thursday’s planned vote to gut net neutrality.
"I think it’s devastating that we have an FCC chair who is just willfully ignoring the facts, the law, the people, the companies, pretty much everyone except the phone and cable companies,” says Candace Clemente, a campaign director with the pro-net neutrality advocacy group Free Press.
Not taking net neutrality seriously
Clemente spoke to ConsumerAffairs shortly after returning back from the protest. She did not see Pai make any attempt to address the crowd, at least while she was there. His social media indicates that he may have other concerns at the moment.
“Restaurant patron arrested after causing ‘disturbance inside when she did not receive what she believed to be an adequate amount of #Sriracha sauce,” Pai wrote on Twitter this morning, sharing an article about a Sriracha-related arrest to his followers.
Clemente -- who points out that Pai most certainly used the open internet to find that story -- sounds unsurprised to learn of the tweet.
A video that leaked last week shows Pai, a former Verizon attorney, making jokes about being a shill for the company, seemingly making light of real concerns consumers and advocacy groups have shared. Advocates say that gutting net neutrality would benefit cable powerhouses at the expense of consumers and companies that do business on the internet.
"I feel like that tweet is really in line with that attitude, of not taking it seriously, treating it like a joke,” Clemente tells ConsumerAffairs.
Consumers urged to make their voices heard
Advocates warn that the issue is not a joke. Everyone from the ACLU to Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the World Wide Web, describes the FCC’s planned vote to kill the current rules as catastrophic to the state of the internet today.
Clemente says the most effective way for consumers to make their voice heard right now is to contact their representatives, because Congress could potentially overturn the FCC vote under the Congressional Review Act.
As it stands, if the FCC goes ahead with gutting net neutrality Thursday, immediate aftermath is uncertain. Many pundits predict the FCC will move forward, despite some commissioners who promise to vote against the consensus.
Implementing the new regulations could take anywhere from one day to one year -- it all depends on how long it takes the FCC to update the Federal Register, Clemente says. Advocacy groups also plan on suing the FCC to overturn the ruling should it not go in their favor.
Meanwhile, Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the FCC commissioners who plans to vote against killing net neutrality, tweeted from her office this morning that the internet at the FCC was temporarily down. “I think we can call this some fierce irony,” she wrote.