Net neutrality activists are planning a nationwide day of protests on Thursday after it was reported last week that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is considering a hybrid plan for regulating the Internet.
According to unnamed sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Wheeler's approach would split the Internet into two categories: wholesale and retail. The wholesale part of the Internet—known as the backend—pertains to the relationship between content providers and the service providers (ISP). Under the new plan, the backend of the Internet would be classified as a telecommunications, allowing the FCC to regulate any and all deals made between content and service providers. That would give the federal agency the ability to rule on agreements such as the one hatched recently between Verizon and Netflix.
The second part of the Internet, the retail side, defines the relationship between service providers and consumers. It's still unclear how the retail side of the Internet would be regulated.
Wheeler's approach appears to be inspired by proposals submitted to the FCC by the Mozilla Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology. It's one of several proposed plans for Internet regulation under consideration by the FCC.
The FCC told Fusion that they have yet to make a final decision on whether to adopt the hybrid plan reportedly championed by Wheeler.
"The Chairman has said that all Title II options are under serious consideration, including proposals by Mozilla, CDT and others," FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart said.
Title II classification would treat the Internet as a public utility. As such, all Internet Service Providers would be subject to stringent regulations. Those in favor of net neutrality are proponents of Title II. ISPs are opposed to the move.
Unsurprisingly, no one is happy with the compromise.
"The FCC is still considering Swiss cheese rules filled with loopholes that would permit fast lanes and slow lanes online," Michael Scurato, Policy director for the pro-net neutrality organization National Media Hispanic Coalition, told Fusion. "We continue to believe that a pure Title II approach would best serve consumers and we implore the FCC to stand with millions of people and create rules that prohibit, not bless, blocking discrimination, and pay-for-play deals online."
On the flip side, there are those who oppose the introduction of anything that resembles Title II.
"[There's] no way to split the baby here," said Berin Szoka, president and founder of TechFreedom, a libertarian organization that has taken money from telecom companies. Earlier this year, Tech Freedom, along with other nonprofits, including some that receive funding from the Koch Brothers, launched "Don't break the net," a campaign asking for less regulation from the FCC.
"If the FCC invokes Title II at all, it will shatter the clear line that has protected the Internet, both broadband and content providers, from Title II's heavy handed regulator," Szoka added.
In addition to expressing disapproval over how the FCC has handled the subject of regulating the Internet, pro-net neutrality activists have launched various calls to action to promote their cause. One such effort is CallTheFCC.com, a website run by Fight for the Future (FFTF) and Demand Progress, which allows supporters to call 30 of the top officials at the regulatory agency.
"Once it became clear that Chairman Tom Wheeler was willing to ignore millions of public comments calling for net neutrality, we thought it was important to give the public another way to make sure their views were heard, " said FFTF campaign manager Evan Greer.
The campaign has resulted in 18,835 phone calls and at least 870 individuals have agreed to be daily callers, according to Greer.
Moreover, Team Internet—a coalition of companies and organizations in favor of net neutrality (it includes FFTF and Demand Progress, as well as business such as Reddit and Kickstarter)—have organized demonstrations nationwide to decry the FCC's "hybrid" solution.
The rallies, inspired by the massive and successful Hungarian protests against an Internet tax that occurred last week in Budapest, will take place on Thursday across various locations, including the White House and Comcast's headquarters in Philadelphia.
To find out more about these protests, visit Battleforthenet.com.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.