Net neutrality battle: Bicyclist slows real traffic in protest; California bill advances

A bicyclist literally slowed down traffic outside FCC offices in Washington this week in protest, riding the wave of sentiment against the repeal of net neutrality rules.

Rob Bliss called his protest “Restoring Automotive Freedom at The FCC,” a dig at the title of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s repeal plan — Restoring Internet Freedom — which was approved in a partisan 3-2 vote in December.

Bliss throttled vehicle traffic by blocking two lanes with orange cones, then riding his bike really slowly in the remaining open lane while wearing a sign on his back that said “Ask me about our 12th Street $5 a Month Priority Access Plan!”

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His protest — it’s on YouTube, of course, and it was stopped by the cops after three days — is just another example that net neutrality, the principle that all online traffic should be treated equally, has come a long way toward becoming a mainstream issue.

Last week, Burger King weighed in with an ad explaining the issue using Whoppers with tiered pricing — the faster you want your burger, the more you have to pay.

“I couldn’t even have dreamed three years ago that Burger King would put out a net neutrality ad,” said Gigi Sohn, former counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in an interview with this news organization this week. Sohn, who is also a Mozilla fellow and a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, added: “This is a thing, and it’s not going away.”

But the rules to prevent internet service providers from slowing down traffic, or charging more for certain online content, are supposed to be going away, unless legislation or legal action can repeal the repeal.

There’s an effort underway in Congress to overturn the FCC’s vote by invoking the Congressional Review Act. The Senate needs just one more vote to pass it; the House version has the support of about 130 lawmakers and needs more. The FCC is already facing a few lawsuits, including from California and 21 other states.

And speaking of states, the California State Senate this week approved a bill that would establish net neutrality laws for the Golden State. The bill, by Sen. Kevin de Leon (Sen. Scott Wiener also has a bill), now goes to the State Assembly.

Montana and New York already have their own state net neutrality rules, recently imposed by their governors’ executive orders.

Meanwhile, people like Bliss are keeping the issue front and center. He earned kudos on Twitter from Tim Berners-Lee, widely known as the father of the World Wide Web.

Photo: An activist protests the FCC plan to repeal net neutrality rules outside the Verizon store in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. The protests continue: In Washington this week, a bicyclist held up vehicle traffic in front of FCC offices. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)


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