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At what point do these protests become counterproductive?
As they’ve done with increasing frequency this year, protesters in favor of preserving net neutrality ruffled feathers Tuesday by loudly interrupting an open Federal Communications Commission meeting.
At issue is whether the FCC will attempt to reclassify the Internet as a broadband utility, which many activists say is the best way to preserve net neutrality and keep Internet providers from charging extra to access particular sites at full speed.
But it’s not clear that this meeting was that effective. According to multiple tweets from people at the meeting, five protesters began yelling, with several running behind FCC Chair Tom Wheeler with a banner proclaiming “reclassify now.”
In at least one sense, the subject has already garnered far more attention than any other issue in the FCC’s history, prompting an unprecedented almost 4 million comments from the public, most of them in favor of net neutrality.
It wasn’t on the agenda for this meeting, however. Margaret Flowers, a spokesperson for the group Popular Resistance, with which the five protesters are affiliated, said that’s by design. “They’re just stalling,” she said. “We wanted them to know we’re still there.”
Wheeler had previously pledged to have a full proposal on the subject by the end of 2014, but he has since reneged. In November, an FCC official said that the delay was simply a matter of being thorough, and wasn’t any kind of delay tactic. “We are going to be so careful this time that we have crossed every T and dotted every I. Some of the staff felt we’re not quite there yet,” the official said.
Popular Resistance has gotten rowdy over net neutrality before, including similarly interrupting an FCC meeting in March and throwing a protest in front of Wheeler’s home. It’s safe to say that not everyone there appreciated the interruption.
Flowers said that the five protesters were escorted out by security but not arrested.
Photo by Paulina Lonovich/Twitter | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III
A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.