About two dozen demonstrators gathered outside a Verizon store in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, chatting slogans like “Ho-Ho, Hey-Hey, Net Neutrality is here to stay” and “Pai, Pai, Stop the Lies.”
They were referencing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and his proposal to overturn Obama-era regulations that treat the internet like a utility. This was one of the many protests held around the county near Verizon in opposition to Pai, who at one time was an attorney for the telecommunications company.
Kevin Ferenshik of Pittsburgh criticized Pai's proposal. "This just gives [telecoms] more strength, more power," he said. "They can decide on what we what, what we can’t watch. Who’s on the internet, who’s not on the internet."
Currently broadband companies are prevented from slowing down, blocking or charging consumers for content. Pai argues these "heavy-handed" regulations prevent broadband investment.
Pittsburgher Stephanie Dooley organized the event because she said she's concerned how ending net neutrality regulations will affect her web-based startup. Dooley's Tipped Off, which she said will fully launch next year, aims to connect people in the service industry to bars and restaurants where their experience, knowledge and location make them a good fit.
"If these telecom companies are able to throttle the speeds at which people are able to reach these kind of websites, like mine, and we can’t pay to be part of the select package, like say Google would be on," she said, "then my business would be crushed."
At least one company, Comcast, has pledged to not block or throttle content.
The FCC is expected to vote in favor of repealing net neutrality rules next Tuesday.