Net neutrality activist sets up paid ‘fast lane’ outside FCC headquarters

WASHINGTON — “People can pick the plan that’s right for them,” Rob Bliss says to an exasperated cop. “It’s a good plan. Five dollars is not that much.”

That’s what one net neutrality activist said after police cracked down on his plan to “restore automotive freedom” outside the headquarters of the FCC.

Bliss laid traffic cones in the street, then very slowly peddled his bike down the other lane, in an attempt to draw a real world comparison to the repeal of net neutrality. He offered drivers the use of the “fast lane” for just five dollars per month.

Bliss trudged along as drivers honked and cursed at him. The police were called numerous times. At least one onlooker said, “this is America. Keep it up.”

On December 14, the FCC repealed net neutrality with the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said would “[restore] the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for most of its existence.”

Supporters of net neutrality, such as FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, say the action essentially handed the keys to the internet over to “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

The repeal gives internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast the ability to throttle internet speeds to websites of their choosing, leading to widespread speculation that ISPs could create “fast lanes” for online companies that pay them a fee, and/or charge consumers extra for particular websites, such as what is already happening in Portugal, where ISPs found a legal loophole that allowed them to charge consumers extra to use certain groups of sites. It’s much like how cable TV providers charge their customers for TV packages.

In the end, Rob Bliss’s wasn’t able to “restore automotive freedom” but he certainly made his point.