Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

The Bay Area “Welcomes” FCC Chairman Pai with a Protest

Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Pai’s plan has got to go.

Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Pai’s plan has got to go.

Last Tuesday, Internet activists and Bay Area community members rallied outside of an event hosted by Lincoln Networks to hold a so-called “welcome party” for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The young, Trump-appointed chairman, who is also an ex-Verizon lobbyist, has made a number of decisions and statements since taking the position that greatly concern lovers of a free, fair, and

Photo Credit: CREDO

affordable Internet.

Pai was scheduled to discuss how the FCC was taking steps to close the digital divide – a worthy but questionable mission for Pai to helm considering his aggressive steps toward dismantling net neutrality rules and handing our beloved digital domain to monied corporate interests. The ‘digital divide’ refers to the many ways people who are rural, low income, and of color have less access to and lower benefit from information and communication technologies. We’re talking broadband access, device diversity, and perhaps most importantly: the quality of service those devices are receiving. To address the digital divide is to address fundamental questions of who has the right to connect and communicate.

As a grassroots organizer who has and continues to work with people living on low, fixed, or no incomes, the digital divide moves from abstract concept to a real structural barrier making organizing work significantly more difficult. As a young Black person moved to action by the murders of young Black people by police and vigilantes, the Internet was key in helping me find and organize with young Black folks across my city, the country, and the globe. We were able to share

Photo Credit: CREDO

information, images, and tell stories previously unheard by the public at large.

For these reasons, it was important for me and many others to voice our displeasure with Pai’s hypocrisy. He claims to care about poor and rural communities having access to all the opportunities we know the Internet affords. All the while, he works to undermine and kill net neutrality. We cannot begin to bridge the digital divide without enforcement of the strong net neutrality rules we have. The two concepts cannot be unlinked.

That evening, a crowd of at least 120 people rallied and marched to the event delivering an oversized Reese’s mug, a parody of the mug made famous by John Oliver’s sketch earlier this summer, overflowing with comments demanding Chairman Pai save net neutrality. If Pai is as serious as he claims to be about closing the digital divide, he will enforce the net neutrality rules we have, not repeal them.

 

About the Author

Erin Shields, Internet Rights Organizer

Website by Radish Lab.

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