Battle for the Net

Net neutrality campaign
Battle for the Net


Battle for the Net saved net neutrality from cable companies intent on depriving Americans of equal access to the internet.
Battle for the Net Overview ‧ read
In January 2014, an American appeals court threw out the country’s net neutrality rules. Cable company Verizon sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. body that regulates communication technology like the internet. And Verizon won.

Net neutrality was in trouble. A lot of trouble. The Verizon lawsuit had disabled net neutrality rules, allowing cable company Comcast to start throttling Netflix. Comcast created an internet “slow lane” for Netflix and only released its chokehold on streaming movies after Netflix agreed to pay a hefty ransom.

What happened to Netflix—and, more importantly, to its customers, who could no longer use the internet freely—gave net users a chilling glimpse into a world without net neutrality. With the internet under corporate control, companies like Verizon and Comcast could start charging websites a premium to let customers access them, or they could block access to content they didn’t like. It would have brought about the end of free speech.

Thankfully, millions of internet users wanted to save net neutrality, and the Battle for the Net launched in June 2014. If you want to know what happened, read on.

Team Cable vs. Team Internet

Battle for the Net is an online campaign for net neutrality, which pitches Team Cable against Team Internet.

Team Cable is made up of the U.S. cable companies that are “attacking the Internet—their one competitor and our only refuge—with plans to charge websites arbitrary fees and slow (to a crawl) any sites that won’t pay up. If they win, the internet will never be the same.”

Team Internet is made up of the campaign and its supporters who have “taken a stand for ‘Title II reclassification.’”

Battle for the Net is organized by digital rights advocates Fight for the Future. Other lead organizers include Access Now, the American Civil Liberties Union, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Free Press, and Tumblr.

What is Title II reclassification?

At launch, Battle for the Net’s primary goal was to get the FCC to change its classification of the internet from an ‘information service’ to a ‘telecommunications service.’ This is what net neutrality campaigners refer to as Title II reclassification. The internet with Title II status would be more like a public utility and less like a commercial service.

The FCC would also have more power to regulate the internet, so it could stop providers from using fast and slow lanes to control access to websites.

“The biggest public victory against entrenched interests in history”

Battle for the Net campaigned for Title II reclassification by spreading awareness and encouraging net users to speak up. The 2014–15 campaign was a resounding success. Organizers called it “the biggest public victory against entrenched interests in history.” Here's a breakdown of the campaign's impressive efforts:

  • 4 million comments to the FCC
  • 2.5 million petition signatures
  • 10 million emails to U.S. Congress
  • 500,000 phone calls to the FCC and Congress
  • 100 protests and parties at Comcast, the FCC, and the White House
  • Support from 101 civil rights groups in favor of Title II
  • Over 20 million social media posts

February 2015: Net neutrality is saved… for now

Battle for the net Thankfully, all that campaigning paid off. On February 26, 2014, the FCC changed the classification of internet service providers (ISPs) to Title II “common carriers.” The FCC now had the strongest, safest net neutrality protections it had ever had.

The open internet protections created by the FCC prohibit ISPs from blocking sites and apps, throttling traffic, and creating paid fast lanes. The rules apply to home and mobile internet services in the United States of America.

The battle ain’t over yet

Cable companies have continued to lobby and campaign to reverse the FCC’s decision. In December 2015, U.S. Congress tried to “sneak language into a budget bill that would take away the FCC’s ability to enforce the net neutrality rules we worked hard to pass,” said Battle for the Net’s home page.

Even more worrying: upon Donald Trump's inaugration on January 20, 2017, Tom Wheeler will step down as chairman of the FCC, leaving his role vulnerable to a Republican takeover. Wheeler has been essential in preserving net neutrality to protect consumer interests. In a statement released by the FCC, Wheeler declares: “It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”

With Wheeler no longer at the wheel and cable companies still battling against the FCC, the future of net neutrality is indeed uncertain.

We must stay vigilant for net neutrality

The battle over net neutrality is really a fight between two sets of internet users: those of us who want a free, open, and fair internet, and the few powerful companies who want to control the way we access information online.

As long as this conflict endures, we can’t assume net neutrality is safe. We must be ready to fight for net neutrality. Thankfully, organizations like Battle for the Net are here to help. We hope they’re around next time net neutrality comes under attack.