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Internet groups plan online protest in support of net neutrality rules

A group of internet activists and website owners are planning a "day of action" aimed at keeping in place the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

The activist groups, led by Fight for the Future, plan for the protest to occur on July 12, but it remains unclear what the protest will entail. As of June 6, more than 30 public interest groups and 15 major companies had signed on in support of the effort. Among the companies participating are Amazon.com Inc., Kickstarter, Etsy, Reddit, Mozilla, Vimeo and BitTorrent Inc.

Comcast Corp.'s 2007 interference with traffic on BitTorrent's peer-to-peer file-sharing application is largely seen as a catalyst in the modern net neutrality debate, as it launched a proceeding and series of court cases centered on the FCC's legal authority to enforce net neutrality commitments.

According to Fight for the Future, a nonprofit digital rights organization, the "day of action" will focus on grassroots mobilization, with public interest groups activating their members and major web platforms providing their visitors with tools to contact Congress and the FCC.

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Wikipedia blackout page in 2012
Source: Wikimedia Foundation

In 2012, Fight for the Future helped organize an internet-wide strike against web censorship in response to the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act. The controversial bills would have authorized the U.S. government to take down or block websites hosting pirated content.

A broad bloc of bipartisan legislators, internet companies and public interest groups came together to oppose them. Wikipedia led a website blackout, while Google Inc. blacked out the logo on its search page. Other sites posted simple banner ads advocating citizen action on the bills.

The July 12 protest comes in response to an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking that seeks to reclassify broadband service as a Title I information service under the Communications Act.

Since the adoption of the 2015 Open Internet Order, broadband service has been classified as a Title II telecommunications service, making service providers subject to stricter common carrier regulations. The Title II classification gives the FCC the legal authority to enforce net neutrality rules, such as its current rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

In seeking to reclassify broadband as a Title I service, the FCC has asked whether it should retain or eliminate the current net neutrality rules.