Seattle hosted the FCC for two citizen community meetings about net neutrality in 2010. I was able to attend the first informal meeting where the community spoke directly to the FCC about net neutrality and why it was important to them. It was considered a "listening" meeting.
I spoke about how important an open Internet was to LGBT people. I told them how devastating it would be to our community if Comcast required a premium fee to access LGBT websites, or if AT&T chose to filter out all LGBT content. I made the connection between community organizing and an open Internet by telling them about my experience as the Social Media Director for the Approve Referendum 71 campaign.
The FCC listened as I told them that we were able to attract more than 40,000 people in less than six weeks to our Facebook page because the Internet is not censored. We were able to motivate younger, more progressive voters to participate in that campaign. I made it clear to the FCC - those voters helped us win.
More poignant than my comments was the testimony of a Chinese immigrant. She spoke about family members who were executed in China for their perceived political affiliations. She told a wide-eyed panel of FCC officials how the Chinese-censored Internet suppresses freedom. She begged, with tears in her eyes, that the FCC prevent a tiered, walled, or otherwise censored Internet in the United States. She cried, "our freedom depends on it."
That's what's at stake here. The corporations are looking for huge profits, but the people inside those corporations have lost sight of the most valuable asset - free speech.
Our country has gone to great lengths to help grassroots organizers in foreign countries stay connected. New technology will allow people to connect to the Internet, or to cell phone signals out of a suit case. These systems are censor free and are designed to promote free speech. The greatest reminder of the last year is that free speech topples dictatorships better than any bomb ever made.
The United States must maintain a neutral, open, and accessible Internet. Our democracy depends on it. LGBT equality depends on it.