Protests were held outside of Verizon Mobile stores last Thursday, including the location at Waterford Lakes near the University of Central Florida, to protest an upcoming vote by the Federal Communications Commission to end what is commonly known as net neutrality.
Protesters gathered outside the storefront around noon, carrying signs that said “SAVE NET NEUTRALITY EQUAL ACCESS FOR ALL” and “net neutrality protects our rights.” Roughly 30 people stood outside the door and on the road, getting the attention from those who passed and honked to show their support.
“Hope is that they won’t pass the law and that we keep our rights, but today’s protest is more about awareness,” said Gabby Heinlein, who came with a group of activists called Love Tribe. “Politicians are passing these laws without anyone knowing. We’re here to get the word out there so people can critically think for themselves.”
Net neutrality is a group of laws that regulate the internet as a free market system for any website on it. For example, if someone subscribe to a lesser known video streaming service it should hypothetically load at the same rate as larger services like Netflix or Hulu. As of now, those larger corporations can’t pay a fee to be in what is commonly referred to as a “fast lane.”
“They say it’s going to make it faster for us, when in reality it’s only going to work in favor of the large corporations. It’s going to ruin the internet for the little guys,” one protester told Knight News.
Protesters voiced a general disdain for what the FCC is attempting to do and were quick to say that corruption is to blame.
Verizon Wireless has been a large advocate for ending Net Neutrality and they may get their way. Agit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, used to be one of Verizon’s top lawyers. Many of the protesters voiced opinions through their chants and signs suggesting that he is still working for them in some capacity.
Others went as far to say that ending net neutrality is an infringement on the First Amendment. Joey Leach, a spokesman for the Orlando branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, says his organization has been defending the speech rights for industrial workers since its inception, a fight which he said continues today.
“The IWW dates back to protecting the free speech of factory workers who were arrested for soapboxing and trying to organize unions,” Leach said. “We feel that ending net neutrality is the modern attack on free speech. It will prevent smaller unions and entities from getting messages out.”