FINAL

Introduction

            United States of America has an incredibly rich history
of political movements. Throughout history, a plethora of critical issues has
spurred various political movements. They differed on issues they focused on,
support they garnered and some were more successful than others. Most
importantly they all played a significant role in shaping American democracy.
Political movements encourage debates on prominent issues and concerns between
government and citizens, and has helped to mold Government laws, policies and
regulations. Today’s issues and concerns are no exception, and social movement
in politics continue to be one of the driving force in American Politics and Democracy.
At the beginning of this century a new social movement has emerged and
is gaining momentum today, it is a pro-consumer movement to protect consumers
rights for free, open and unbiased internet or Neworkt Neutrality.

 

Literature Review

Social Movement

Definition. Social Movement defined as
“loosely organized collections of

ordinary people, working
outside normal political channels, to get their voices heard by the public at
large, the news media and leaders of major institutions, and government officials,
in order to promote, resist, or undo some social change” (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 236)

Characteristics. Social movements have
certain characteristics. To begin with, it

helps citizens to express
their voices and influence policy makers. Furthermore, it is typically
grassroots movement, that depends on many ordinary people to encourage others
and influence political officials to bring the desired change. In addition,
people involved in social movement are usually affected or sympathize with the
issue and feel very strong about the changing it. Also, it generally requires a
considerable number of people to be involved and to have a belief that they can
persuade government to pass laws, regulations, etc. to make a difference.
Moreover, social movements use a variety of conventional and unconventional
tactics, that can be dramatic and disruptive to bring attention to their cause.
Additionally, social movements frequently organize themselves into advocacy and
interest groups to further pursue their goals. (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 236-237)

Focus. Social movement in politics can be focused
on a single issue, such as war

or environment. They can
intend to change government policy or regulation, such as wildlife protection
or business regulations. Also, they can focus on extending rights to certain
groups, such as women, gay or disabled. Few of the major Social Movements that
shaped American Politics are: The Abolitionists, for ending slavery; Women’s
Suffrage, for enabling women to vote; The Labor Movement, for protecting
working class people; The Civil Rights Movement, for ending segregation,
discrimination and racism; Anti War Movements, for ending wars in Vietnam,
Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.  (Greenberg, E, 2012, p 238-239)

Consumer Movement. Another well known social
movement is a consumer

movement. Consumer
movement are an organized social movement that are lead by consumers, consumer
organizations and advocacy groups. This groups work to protect consumers
interests, by educating consumers, pressing lawmakers to pass consumer
protection laws and protecting consumer rights from violation by the companies,
organizations, government, etc. Since the early 1900, consumer movement have
advocated for a variety of consumer laws and regulation such as food and drugs
regulations, quality of services, packaging and labeling, misleading
advertisement, etc. (Brobeck, S.
& et al. 1997)

Consumer Movement for Network Neutrality. With rise of innovative
technology

and related new products
and services, pro-consumer movement continue to work to protect the interest of
consumers and influence government policies and regulations. At the beginning
of this century a new social movement has emerged to protect consumers rights
for free, open and unbiased internet or Network Neutrality.

 

Internet, Network Neutrality and
Internet Service Providers

Internet and Network Neutrality. Internet is one of the
most valuable human

innovation in technology
and it is a very powerful and a tremendously useful tool. For the past decade,
internet became a big part of people daily lives and it is invaluable to our
education, entertainment, communication, economy and democracy. Internet is a
driving force behind the innovations, creativity, individual expression,
political movements, social connections, business development, and so on. From
it’s very beginning, the internet’s guiding and governing principle was
non-discriminative access or Network Neutrality. It allows users to view any
website, to post anything they want, to choose what products to buy, and what
services, website or applications to use. (Internet Association.org N/A)

Internet Service Providers (ISP) However, the Internet
Service Providers (ISP)

are private for-profit
companies and they have the ability and the incentives to interfere with users’
access to internet and have a history of abusing the Network Neutrality. There
are only a few common carriers in United States, who controls access to
internet: AT, Comcast, Cox, Verizon and Time Warner and they must be
regulated by Government to preserve the Network Neutrality principles. (ACLU, 2010) 

 

Government (FCC) Regulations and
Policies

2005. In 2005, under  public pressure the Federal Communication
Commission (FCC) released Policy Statement:” New Principles Preserve and
Promote the Open and Interconnected Nature of Public Internet” outlining that:”
(1) consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their
choice; (2) consumers are entitled to run applications and services of their
choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; (3) consumers are entitled to
connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and (4)
consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and
service providers, and content providers.” (FCC, 2005)

2015. Furthermore, on June 12, 2015, FCC
established rule to protect Net Neutrality and consumer rights for open
internet. The rule reclassified broadband ISPs as “common carriers,”
imposing rules against discriminating against any internet traffic and provided
the government better control and authority over ISPs. Most importantly, the
rule prohibits ISP to interfere in anyway with what consumers can view or post
on line, to slow down, limit or discriminate access to any data, to prioritize
information for fee, and to disclose practices, speed, fees, rates, and other
information to consumers. (FCC,
2015), (Consumers Union.org, 2017)

2017. However, on December 14, 2017, the FCC
voted in favor to repeal

Network Neutrality rules.
Now ISPs can speed up or slow down any services they like, they can block
websites and services, they can charge higher fees for access to certain
internet services, manipulate information consumer can access, things consumers
can buy, etc.  As author of Washington
Post article “The FCC just voted to repeal its net neutrality rules, in a
sweeping act of deregulation” noted: “For example, under the Obama-era rules,
Verizon was not allowed to favor Yahoo and AOL, which it owns, by blocking
Google or charging the search giant extra fees to connect to customers. Under
the new rules, that type of behavior would be legal, as long as Verizon
disclosed it.” (Fung, B, 2017)

 

Discussion

Social Movement for Network Neutrality

How it started and who is involved? According to Greenberg,
E. S, 2012:” Social distress caused by economic, social, and technological
change helped create the conditions for the rise of most of the major social
movements in American history.” Social movement for Network Neutrality is not
an exception, and just as the other movements, it started as a response to ISPs
attempt to control internet traffic in the early 2000.  

It includes ordinary internet users, consumer
rights activists, free speech activists and civil organizations, all fighting
for an open internet. It grew over the years as internet use increased
dramatically and became an integral part of many citizens lives. For years,
various organizations such as American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Internet
Association, Consumer Union, Popular Resistance and others, were advocating, conducting
research, producing reports and mobilizing resources. The movement was enormous
in 2014-2015, pressing government to pass regulation to protect open internet.

However, repealing Network Neutrality rules in
December 2017, caused momentum in the movement, as millions of people got
involved. Internet users, politicians, celebrities, government officials,
states attorney generals, civil leaders, prominent figures from various
technical and business fields, minority leaders, grass roots organizations,
consumer and free speech advocates, various advocacy groups and press weighted
in and joined the movement.

What are they fighting for and why? According to the social
movement for Network Neutrality, consumers have rights for unbiased and open
internet. It is a consumer right that encourages innovation and competition
that drives our economy “Without these rules, your internet provider can charge
a toll for any website it chooses. The biggest companies can most likely afford
these new costs, but smaller companies could be left out in the cold, and that
fundamentally changes the level playing field of the internet as we’ve known
it. When companies introduce new tolls to a system like internet service,
history has shown it typically leads to higher prices for consumers” (Consumers Union.org, 2017)

But most importantly, Network Neutrality is
citizens right for free speech. The First Amendment right is one of the
fundamentals of our democracy and internet is just like television and print,
it is a venue for freedom of speech and just like television and print, the
internet should be protected by the First Amendment.  Therefore, maintaining the status quo is not
an option.  In his commentary to CNN “Net
neutrality is foremost free speech issue of our time”, Senator Al Franklen (D,
Min) noted that “Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental to
free speech…. Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the key
to preserving the internet as we know it — and it’s the most important First
Amendment issue of our time” (Franken,
Al, 2010)

 

Movement Strategies and Tactics:

Various players in Social Movement for Network
Neutrality use several conventional and unconventional tactics to advance their
goals. To market themselves to the general public, the movement activists
use publicity and enlisted support from the inventor of the web Tim
Berners-Lee, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, many celebrities, lawmakers,
former FCC commissioners, politicians, public figures, and others who speak
publicly on the issue.

Furthermore, protesters and activists use many
persuasive messages to get public attention: “Free Internet=Freedom of Speech”,
“Equal Access to All”, “Net Neutrality is Freedom of Speech”, “Save the
Internet”, “Never going to give up on Net Neutrality”, etc. Likewise, the
movement has clearly identified Internet Services Provider and major companies
like Verizon, Cox, etc. as the antagonists of the movement, thus making the
general population aware that their services will be affected.

Additionally, new websites like
Battleforthenet.com, Savetheinternet.com, etc. were established to educate
about Network Neutrality, advocate against the ruling and persuade citizens to
take actions.

To mold public opinion in their favor social movements for
Network Neutrality use social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, to
bring awareness to the issue, to call for actions and to condemn the government
regulation. For example, months before and since the repeal, #NetNeutrality
trended and continues to trend on Twitter. Many Facebook discussion groups were
formed to connect concerned citizens to discuss the issue. Likewise, the
coalitions websites post detailed explanation, reports and polls statistic,
educating consumers on their rights and consequences of inaction.

To influence government decision-makers, activists made hundreds
of thousands of calls to congress and millions expressed their opinion to their
state stakeholders, governors, congress representatives, etc. According to
Freepress.net, in the first week after the repeal was passes citizens have made
over 600,000 calls to Congress to urge lawmakers to condemn the repeal.
Hundreds of protests were organized around the country. Over 20 million
weighted on the repeal with 98.5% supporting keeping the Network Neutrality
Rules. (Kroin, 2017)

Furthermore, Popular Resistance.org reported that
“University of Maryland poll finding 83% support for the Internet being open
and equal to all. There was a record number of comments to the FCC on this
issue over the summer. More than 1.2 million calls and 12.5 million emails went
into Congress through the Battlefornet coalition site, and more than 700
protests were held across the country for net neutrality on December 7.”
(Zeese, K & Flower, M, 2017)

In addition, hundreds of civil, grassroots and
other civil organizations put out and file petitions to Protect Net Neutrality.
Electronic Frontier Foundation, CREDO action, CHANGE.org, American Civil
Liberties Union and many others still collecting the signatures on their
petitions.

Violence and disruption. In addition, according to
news outlets, the battle for Net Neutrality already became violent. First, the
anonymous bomb threat delayed the voting. Then after the repeal, various
hacking group posted threats and members of congress who supported the petition
and FCC Chair Ajit Pai had received thousand of death treats. He acknowledged
that he and his family have been continuously harassed. “Going back to May, he
said, many public comments about the FCC proposal have targeted him
personally—some attacking his ethnic background, such as calling for him to be
“deported” to India. More recently, signs were placed near his home telling his
children: “Dad murdered democracy.”” 
Likewise, according too USA today “The chairman of the Federal
Communications Commission reportedly cancelled plans to attend this year’s
Consumer Electronics Show because of death threats.” (Lucas, F, 2017), (Molina, B, 2018)

 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tactics

The numerous tactics used by various social
movements have various levels of effectiveness. One of the single most
effective tactics used in the fight for Network Neutrality is calling and
complaining to your elected official. The reason that it is one of the most
efficient strategy is because the staff in a congressman office must answer the
call. Moreover, the topic and number of the calls are recorded and submitted to
the representative, so they know exactly what people have been calling in
about.  As a matter of fact, after the
FCC repeal the Network Neutrality rules, congress staff where unable to keep up
with the millions of calls they received. The congressional representatives are
elected every two years and therefore they must listen to their constituencies
if they hope to get re-elected.

Likewise, signing the petition to President,
Senator, or member of Congress is another effective way to raise concerns. The
main advantage is that it reaches a wider population as e-petition are
widespread and are easy to sign. Another advantage is, it is a very
cost-effective strategy and in brief period, movement activists can persuade
many people to sign the petition.

Another example, Social media like Facebook and
Twitter, and sending e-mails. The advantages are that those posts, and messages
ensures direct dialogue and ongoing discussion with political leader, as well
as feedback. The disadvantage is that because social media is relatively new,
we don’t really know how it affects the political decisions.

Moreover, using celebrities or permanent figures
speaking out on the movement behalf have its advantages and disadvantages.
Although, it can bring a lot of publicity and support from people who like or
admire that celebrity, but it will be ineffective to persuade people who are
indifferent or dislike them.

Last, but not least, violence is never the answer
and should be condemned. The way it has been used to install the fear, is a
very inefficient mean of creating any meaningful political change. It allows
the government to label movement activists as criminals and can be used to
invalidate movement point of view. Furthermore, according to statistic published
in the book “Why Civil Resistance Works” only one third of violent social movements
get what they are fighting for, compared to three fourth of non-violent movements.
(Chenoweth, E &.
Stephan, M, 2011)

 

Conclusion

Throughout history, United States has had many
political movements protecting consumer rights. This century has seen the
mainstream rise of the internet and development of related modern technologies,
services and product and companies who tries to violate consumer rights. Which
has given rise to a new social movement meant to protect an unbiased internet
rules known as Network Neutrality. Many ordinary consumers, businesses,
grassroot organizations, advocacy groups, pro-consumer organizations and others
advocated and worked tirelessly to protect consumer rights for free and open
internet, and ensure freedom of speech and press.Net Neutrality Regulation have
passed under President Obama administration, however, on December 14th, 2017,
The Federal Communications Commission have voted to overturn that regulation.
Consumers are outraged by this decision and many citizens, civil groups,
organizations, businesses, political leaders and other have condemned FCC
decision and mobilizing their resources, engaging in advocacy, posting the
threats, rising the awareness, campaigning to lawmakers to overturn the ruling
and to protect the consumer rights for Network Neutrality and Freedom of
Speech, becoming one of the biggest Social Movements of Modern Days.