By Anthony Castillo
In January the Beachhead ran my article on Net Neutrality and the non role Google was taking in the fight to stop the corporate takeover of the internet. On Thursday, February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held its highly anticipated vote on Net Neutrality. The vote pitted big telecom companies like Comcast and Verizon against true grassroots organizing. And in an historic victory, organized citizens beat organized money! The vote was three Democrats in favor to two Republicans against treating the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communication Act. When the voice vote was held and the motion passed, the gallery of fighters for a free and open internet gave the FCC commissioners a standing ovation. When was the last time you can recall that any regulatory body of the government received one of those?
This huge victory was a long time in the making, spanning over ten years. Organizations such as Credo Action, Free Press, Center for Media Justice, Sum of Us, Open Media and many, many more along with the likes of Netflix, mobilized literally millions of folks just like you and me to write, call, comment and picket in favor of a single tiered, one speed for all, rich or poor internet. After FCC chairman and former cable company lobbyist Tom Wheeler introduced new rules in April of 2014 that would have created a fast lane, slow lane, tiered internet, the outcry from the public was a resounding NO! I guess after Thursday’s vote Tom Wheeler can kiss that cushy cable company job after he leaves the FCC good bye? He didn’t change his mind on his own. We made him blink. It was also our voices that made the President speak out in favor of Net Neutrality late in the game. But of course we need to stay vigilant because the corporate telecom push-back has already begun. They don’t take kindly to not getting their way in D.C. But for now let us all savor this very sweet victory over corporate power. Hipsters, your iPhones are safe for now.
All of this leads me to think about how many more battles that are currently ongoing we could be winning if we just get motivated, educated, organized and mobilized. The laundry list is almost endless. For instance here in our beloved Venice the battle to stop greedy gentrification, ending the demonization of the homeless, open beach access, stopping our pro-corporate, pro-development City Council representative Mike Bonin from selling out Venice even more than he already has. Better yet, we could find a viable, progressive candidate to run against him in the next election who would voice the concerns of the Venice Abbot Kinney had envisioned. It is all possible. And now that we still have the tool of the internet at our disposal, what’s stopping us?