FCC Faces 'Tsunami of Resistance' to Net Neutrality Plans

net neutrality fcc protest petition
Protesters hold a rally to support net neutrality on May 15, 2014, at the FCC in Washington, DC. KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Plans to dismantle net neutrality rules face a "tsunami of resistance" from opponents who claim doing so will undermine a free and open internet, a U.S. senator has warned.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced the regulators' plan to roll back net neutrality—the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all internet traffic equally.

Senator Edward Markey said in a call to reporters on Wednesday that net neutrality allows "a level playing field for everyone" and broadband companies can expect a "tsunami of resistance from grassroots campaigners" in their fight to abolish it.

A similar effort to end neutrality in 2014 and 2015 faced significant backlash from public interest groups, who set up a BattleForTheNet campaign that saw four million public comments urging the FCC to preserve net neutrality. The campaign helped lead to the landmark 2015 Open Internet Order.

The FCC said rolling back the Obama-era measures would "restore internet freedom for all Americans," however leading digital rights group Fight for The Future called this "an insult to the intelligence of internet users." In an email to Newsweek, the group's director said slashing net neutrality rules would allow ISPs to discriminate against, censor and slow down websites.

"Net neutrality is the First Amendment of the internet," Fight for The Future Campaign Director Evan Greer said. "By ignoring what the public wants and attacking Open Internet Rules, the FCC is playing with fire and potentially opening the floodgates to widespread censorship.

"Paving over the Internet into fast lanes for those who can afford to pay and slow lanes for the rest of us will turn the Web into a place where the wealthiest and most powerful can be heard, while ordinary people and alternative voices are drowned out."

Fight for The Future has joined other advocacy groups in launching a crowdfunding campaign to relaunch BattleForTheNet, with the goal of raising $100,000 and driving at least one million comments to the FCC in the coming weeks.

"Net neutrality advocates can't match the lobbying dollars spent by the country's cable monopolies and duopolies, but we clearly have the public on our side," said Demand Progress executive director David Segal in a press release.

"In recent years, millions have mobilized to stand up for an open internet, which is critical to our democracy. Now, with Chairman Pai announcing his intentions to roll back net neutrality protections, advocates will again use the internet to save the internet. BattleForTheNet.com will be the hub for the fight against Big Cable companies' efforts to elevate their own profits over the public's free speech—and we need the public's support so we can compete with the cable lobby's deep pockets."