Hundreds of orange-clad supporters beating drums rallied en force on May 15, outside the offices of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., calling for a free and open internet. The demonstration wouldn't have been possible without the historic groundwork laid by the United Church of Christ's media justice ministry, the Office of Communications, Inc., during the Civil Rights Movement.
"Because of the famous cases that started 50 years ago this year, the public has a right to speak out to the Federal Communications Commission," said Cheryl Leanza, policy advisor for OC, Inc. "Without those cases, private citizens could not even get in the door at the FCC. We at the UCC stand as an example of why the stereotype of Christians as narrow-minded is wrong."
Net neutrality, a concept promoting a free and open Internet, aims to prevent Internet providers from discriminating against the content shared on the web. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to "invite public comment on a set of proposed rules aimed at guaranteeing an open Internet."
However, the proposal includes a caveat that allows corporations to pay Internet providers so their content would download or stream faster for users.
Leanza, speaking at the Rally to Save the Internet organized by Free Press, explaining why OC, Inc. is publicly campaigning for net neutrality, recounted how the UCC's voice has been shut out in the media before.
"We know what it is like not to have our voice accepted on the media," Leanza said. "Many years ago, when we tried to buy advertising time on television welcoming gay couples, we were rejected. We don't want that to happen to the Internet."
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, speaking before the vote, said "We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet. What we're dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule."
With the FCC ready to gauge the feedback on the issue, the public has until July 15 to submit initial comments on the proposal to the FCC, and until Sept. 10 to submit any responses to the initial comments.
"The real call to action begins after the vote today," said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "This is your opportunity to formally make your points on the record. You have the ear of the entire FCC. The eyes of the world are on all of us."
For resources on net neutrality and to take action, visit the OC Inc. website.