Stop the Secrecy

Here’s what happened when I went to the White House

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 14:29 -- Josh Tabish

When we heard we had been invited to meet with senior White House decision-makers about the future of the open Internet, we dropped everything to arrange flights, hotels, and everything else you need to deliver the voices of everyday Internet users to some of the most powerful decision-makers in the world.

We also announced the big news to our community as quickly as possible, and saw an outpouring of support that astounded us, and made our trip possible. Now, 4500 miles, four plane rides, and dozens of cups of coffee later, we have the pictures to prove that we took your voice straight to D.C.![1]

Josh at the Whitehouse

On September 23, 2014, I represented the voices of hundreds of thousands of OpenMedia supporters at a roundtable discussion on the future of the open Internet with senior Obama Administration officials. I have to admit: in the hours leading up to the meeting I was a bit of a nervous wreck. At one point, I had to video chat with our Communications Manager, David Christopher over Skype to make sure I’d tied my tie correctly. I mean, I’ve dealt with border guards and airport security plenty of times before, but when you’re about to go through a security checkpoint with the Secret Service, there’s an added weight to the whole situation.

The meeting took place in the Dwight Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and was set up in response to a letter we sent alongside dozens of other leading Internet freedom groups that called on President Obama to deliver on his campaign promise to protect the open Internet. As you may recall, the (then) candidate Obama said he would “take a back seat to no one” when it came to net neutrality, and the open Internet.

Now, after months of near silence from the Obama Administration on proposed rules that would allow ISPs to slow content online, we went to the White House with one clear message:

President Obama, do the right thing: listen to the over 5.1 million Internet users around the world who have spoken out for the open Internet, and deliver on your promise to support rules that would ban Big Telecom giants from forcing our favorite websites into an Internet slow lane.[2]

The meeting was attended by nearly 30 representatives from other digital rights and civil society groups, including some of our good friends and long time collaborators at Free Press, Fight for the Future, and Demand Progress, amongst many many others. Here is a picture of myself and Fight for the Future’s Co-Director Tiffiniy Cheng just outside the Dwight Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the meeting took place.

Josh and Tiffiniy Cheng

Now, there are two crucial things to take away from this meeting:

First, while President Obama and his administration will insist that the fate of the open Internet is in the hands of the FCC, this simply isn’t true. Keeping pressure on Obama to keep his promise is key, and his influence will go a long way if we can persuade him to speak out. Let’s not forget: Not only did the President appoint FCC Chair Tom Wheeler in the first place, he also has the power to demote him.

Second, and more importantly, this meeting would have never happened without you speaking up. Hundreds of thousands of you joined millions more around the world to speak out against Big Telecom’s Internet slow lane plan – arguably the most important issue facing the Internet today. And what happened? Our community secured a meeting with some of the most powerful decision-makers in the world, and we delivered your concerns straight to the White House. And we know we’re already making progress – check out FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel’s recent statement on net neutrality, and the importance of keeping the Internet open.

Whitehouse - Admit One

We’ve come an unbelievable distance since Big Telecom’s Internet slow lane rules were first proposed. But now, more than ever, we need to keep the pressure up, and make sure that the FCC makes the right decisions. And if the President answers our call, and urges the FCC to do the right thing and guarantee authentic net neutrality, it will be for only one reason: because you spoke up.

We could have never done this without you, and we will continue to fight around the clock to win this. Let’s keep up the pressure together as the FCC goes away to make its final decision for the end of the year. If you haven’t already, be sure to sign on to Big Telecom vs. The World. And if you’ve already signed, let’s get the word out to as many people as possible on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

It's Big Telecom Vs The World. Which side are you on? Footnotes:

1A quick point of clarification: for those of you who have been following this story since the beginning, you might notice that the person in the photos below doesn’t look like our Founder and Executive Director, Steve Anderson. Well, due to last-minute and unexpected circumstances, OpenMedia decided to send yours truly in Steve’s place – and I could not have been more honored to make the trip.

2Or, in geek speak: Deliver on your campaign promise, and push the FCC to adopt authentic net neutrality rules by reclassifying broadband Internet under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.