In Defense of the Great Indoors

Even The Sierra Club has something to say about net neutrality.

Written .
Updated .
Originally published in the issue of The Quinnehtukqut

When you think of the Sierra Club, you think of the great outdoors. You might picture yourself in a redwood forest, watching one of the ancient trees stretch its limbs upward toward clean and clear skies, the domain of lilywhite clouds, bald eagles, and the occasional wind turbine; and all but feeling the venerable plant pushing its roots through clean soil, down into aquifers as pure as when John Muir walked over them. As you take a picture with your cell phone, you marvel that it reads "No Service."

It may surprise you that the Sierra Club also takes a stance on the great indoors; specifically, on the Federal Communication Commission's reversal of the "net neutrality" rules that required Internet service providers to treat all traffic without discrimination or prioritization. The Sierra Club's Executive Director, Michael Brune, spoke through a press release issued the same day as the repeal: "'s ruling is nothing short of an assault on our democracy and the right to a free and open flow of information. The fact of the matter is that the Trump administration will stop at nothing to give massive handouts to its biggest corporate supporters no matter the cost."

The FCC had a pro-net neutrality stance as early as 2005. However, the FCC's Open Internet Order in 2015 officially reclassified ISP's like utilities instead of luxuries, "common carrier telecommunications services" from "information services."

This order followed over ten years of incidents where ISP's were caught throttling or stopping certain traffic. Comcast slowed file sharing apps and blocked VPN's. Madison River Communications blocked access to their competitor, Vonage. AT&T required users to buy a more expensive data plan to use Apple's free video chat service, FaceTime. Famously, Verizon was caught slowing down traffic from Netflix and YouTube, but not from its own paid video services. All the while, the ISP could do this without telling their own customers. The 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom Act made these practices legal once more.

Net neutrality was supported by the Sierra Club, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Netflix, Amazon, Reddit, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, AOL, and countless other Internet companies; along with over 98% of the 1.3 million unique comments posted on (including this author's) during the comment period. Companies opposed to a free and open Internet included Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. An online poll by the software vendor Mozilla even showed 73% of self-proclaimed Republicans supported net neutrality. Regardless, the repeal passed across party lines. As Mr. Brune continued after the ruling: "The American people will not be silenced. The Sierra Club and our 3 million members and supporters stand with all those who will continue this fight to protect a free and open internet."

Not all hope is lost. Less than an hour after the vote, the attorneys general of New York and Washington announced intent to sue the FCC. then, Connecticut's attorney general, George Jepsen, joined the lawsuit. The case is ongoing.

Update: On , the Senate voted 52-47 to overrule the FCC's decision. Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) said, "If you trust your cable company, you’re not going to like my vote today. If you don’t trust your cable company, you will." Were it to pass the House, which seems unlikely, President Trump would be unlikely to sign it into law.

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Author Me, wearing a purple shirt, tie, and a jacket. Colin Cogle

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This article:
Sierra Club on FCC’s Net Neutrality Ruling: “The American people will not be silenced"
FCC - Open Internet Order (2015)
FCC - Restoring Internet Freedom (2017)
"Comcast Throttles BitTorrent Traffic, Seeding Impossible"
"Telco agrees to stop blocking VoIP calls"
"AT&T wants you to forget that it blocked FaceTime over cellular in 2012"
Electronic Frontier Foundation - Issues - Net Neutrality
Verizon Forums - "Re: The Problem with Verizon and Netflix"
Netflix tweet after the vote:
"Net Neutrality Supports Plan July 12 Day of Action"
"Reddit and its users are ratcheting up their opposition to the FCC's imminent repeal of its net neutrality rules"
"Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is open to working with Congress on net neutrality issues"
"What Is Google's Stance On Net Neutrality?"
"Microsoft, Google Back Strong Net Neutrality Rules"
"Internet Pioneers and Leaders Tell the FCC: You Don’t Understand How the Internet Works"
"98.5% Of Original Comments To The FCC Oppose Killing Net Neutrality"
"Net Neutrality Repeal Stirs Passions on Both Sides"
"Comcast deleted net neutrality pledge the same day FCC announced repeal"
"FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blasted everyone from Twitter to Cher for opposing his efforts to repeal net neutrality rules"
"Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Net Neutrality"
"Democratic FCC Commissioners Railed Against Net Neutrality Repeal. Read Their Statements"
"New York AG to sue FCC over net neutrality repeal"
"AG Jepsen: Conn. Joins Multistate Petition Asking Federal Appeals Court to Overturn FCC's Net Neutrality Repeal"