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Internet Activists Turn To Billboards To Battle Congress

(Photo: DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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Activists are trying to advocate for government regulations over the internet by leasing a number of billboards and using them to call out specific congressmen.

The project aims to expose legislators that support the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) intended plan to roll back mandates implemented under the Obama-era FCC. The relatively recent rules (manifested around 2014 and yet to be fully implemented) would make the internet a public utility through a Title II classification, which essentially places the federal government at the center of the internet.

Fight for the Future, a liberal digital rights group, announced the initiative Tuesday, while stating that it has already raised more than $50,000 toward the billboards. (RELATED: Net Neutrality Activists Tied To Violent Groups, Convicted Al-Qaida Terrorist)

The public advertisements “will go up in the coming weeks targeting lawmakers who support FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut net neutrality rules that prevent companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from charging extra fees, slowing down websites, and engaging in censorship,” Fight for the Future said in a press release.

The organization, via another project it is a part of, is also developing a congressional scorecard so voters can decipher where their particular representative stands on the issue.

Both initiatives are supposed to put pressure on lawmakers to support the government’s direct enforcement of net neutrality — a nebulous term loosely defined as the principle that internet service providers have no right to discriminate against certain forms of traffic, including spam, and cannot offer faster speeds to higher-paying customers. (RELATED: Activists Are Teaming Up With Big Tech For Net Neutrality Protests)

For supporters, who usually skew left, it means that all traffic receives equal treatment. For critics, who typically lean right, net neutrality is a government takeover that prevents companies from investing in faster technology and an overall better infrastructure.

It is important to distinguish that the majority of liberal groups, such as Fight for the Future, want the government to categorize the internet as a Title II utility (meaning publicly controlled), which is not the exact same as net neutrality. Placing the internet under the Title II classification is a mechanism to enforce net neutrality in a comprehensive manner, though many businesses call it cumbersome and restrictive.

Many others, like Pai and AT&T, for example, believe the best way to accomplish complete net neutrality is not a government takeover of the internet, but rather an unfettered free market with “a light-touch regulatory framework” as problems arise. That way, they say, innovation in the industry can prosper, thus ultimately benefitting the consumer. Pai and much of the telecom industry are concerned that if the government intervenes, it will take advantage of its power.

However, Fight for the Future and proponents of a Title II classification worry that, without the government acting as an inherent manager of the internet, companies will take advantage of their power.

Fight for the Future did not return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment by the time of publication.

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