100 Days Later: Net Neutrality and Resistance

Saturday marked the end of the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I wrote about how Free Press would approach this era: “This isn’t a time to tinker around the edges. There is no compromise or engagement strategy that can meet these serious threats. The only option is resistance.”

We launched our 100 Days of Disruption campaign the day Trump was inaugurated. Thousands of you did something daily as part of this effort to resist Trumpism (which goes beyond the man to all those enabling him or exploiting this political moment). Together we’ve fought back, stood up for communities under attack, experimented with new forms of activism and built new alliances across the resistance.

As we enter the next 100 days, the need to resist is no less urgent. And the attacks in Free Press’ corner of the world — at the intersection of media, technology and democracy — have only intensified. In the weeks ahead, you’ll see us resisting and refocusing on the issues and in the areas where we can make the greatest difference and our allies need us the most.

The End of Net Neutrality = The End of the Resistance

Our first priority will be stopping the Trump FCC from killing Net Neutrality, the issue we’ve worked on more than any other over the past decade. We’re committed to this fight because we recognize that a truly open internet makes it possible for people to tell their own stories, organize their communities, hold their leaders accountable and improve their lives.

Net Neutrality is also essential for online activism — including the activism that saved Net Neutrality in the first place. Ending it would incapacitate the resistance, which many organizers and movement-builders understand all too well.

As Winnie Wong, a key organizer of Occupy Wall Street, People for Bernie and the Women’s March, told Motherboard earlier this year:  “Net Neutrality has become one of our single greatest assets as organizers. Now that it's at risk, every single organizer and activist needs to view protecting Net Neutrality as a primary fight under the Trump regime. We need to build a strong coalition to protect and defend a free and open internet, because so much is at stake.”

Net Neutrality is a top target of the Trump administration for many reasons: because the phone and cable giants that give this crew a ton of money hate it and want to kill off their competition, because the Obama administration made the rules, because the president doesn’t understand how the internet works. This administration does know that an open internet makes space for independent voices, undermines dominant narratives and gives a platform to communities that never had one before. The Trump team hates Net Neutrality because it fuels resistance.

“Net Neutrality doesn’t only protect opportunity for struggling families,” says Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice, our partner in the Voices for Internet Freedom project. “It preserves our right to organize in a digital age. The internet, protected by the current Net Neutrality rules, has enabled the mothers of children killed by police to demand an end to police violence; it has enabled undocumented students to fight for changes to our broken immigration system. It's provided the opportunity for new Black voices in the arts to bypass Hollywood gatekeepers. It has given me comfort as I care for my ailing spouse. The only solution that protects the digital voice and rights of communities of color is vigorous enforcement of the rules we fought for and were passed by the FCC two years ago.”

As part of an amazing and diverse coalition, we won a tremendous victory for the open internet in 2015 — and we aren’t going to let Trump take it away. Trump’s lackeys — like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — are going to try to run the same playbook on Net Neutrality that they’re using on the environment, health care, immigration and workers’ rights: Make up data and lie about the harms to erase crucial protections and successful policies.

The Trumpists also specialize in smearing their opponents. Pai tried that last week against Free Press, the group he sees standing in his way. But it backfired and only drew more attention to how underhanded and dishonest such attacks are. Needless to say, we won’t back down or let such bullying intimidate us.

Now that we know how aggressively Pai’s moving to dismantle the open internet, we’ll have to fight even harder than we did to win Net Neutrality in the first place. The phone and cable industry is pouring cash into the Beltway to hire lobbyists, buy ads, finance Astroturf groups and activate the right-wing noise machine.

How We Win … Again.

Companies like Comcast may have more money, but we have always had more people. Between now and the FCC meeting on May 18, we’re working with our allies to mobilize the first million people against this attack on Net Neutrality. We’ll be organizing more creative disruptions and big protests at the FCC. We’ll be correcting the record in the press and doing economic research and legal work to expose and challenge what Pai and Trump are trying to do. (See our work featured in Sunday’s New York Times editorial blasting the FCC.)

The only way we’ll win is by taking this fight outside of Washington. People across the country are already speaking out, and there will be many opportunities in the weeks ahead to get involved, take action locally, and help build a genuine groundswell against Trump and Pai. We must make sure your neighbors learn about this issue, politicians hear from their constituents and we work together to show these corrupt and clueless officials what happens when you mess with the internet.

Another way you can contribute is by making a donation to Free Press Action Fund to support our organizing efforts. Today we’re launching an effort to raise $100,000 in small donations over the next 100 days to push back against attempts from federal officials and industry front groups to smear us, to organize high-profile actions that will expose this administration’s deceit, and to build with and within social movements to save the internet again. Thank you!