Net neutrality protesters showed up at the home of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
They came the same day as President Barack Obama made an announcement on the issue
Tom Wheeler’s Monday started with protesters, ended with protesters, and was punctuated with pressure from President Barack Obama in between.
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission tried to leave his house in the morning, but his driveway was blocked by a small group of demonstrators who urged him to adopt tighter net neutrality rules.
At first Wheeler tried to play along by helping them hold up a sign that blares “Save the Internet.”
“I’m on your side,” he argued, saying he also believes in an open internet. But he could hardly get in a word in, as the protestors, affiliated with the group Popular Resistance, chanted and sang songs outside his house.
Both sides claim they want a free and open Internet, but they disagree on just how to make that happen. The protesters want tighter regulations to ensure none of the major Internet providers get better access to websites and services than smaller competitors.
Such access, also known as “fast lanes,” has been supported by Wheeler in the past.
“I think you’ve all made your points. Can I get out of my driveway now?” Wheeler asked, saying that they were now violating his rights.
“It’s the only moral choice we have,” one of the protesters replied.
Wheeler was more than familiar with the group. They had staged multiple protests earlier in the year outside of the FCC, including an event that they billed as a musical.
After about five minutes Monday, Wheeler is seen stepping around the demonstrators, abandoning his car and seemingly heading to work by foot. Edward Wyatt, a New York Times reporter, tweeted that Wheeler took the metro.
Wheeler’s office did not immediately return a request for comment about the group.
Later Monday morning, in a surprise announcement, Obama made clear his own proposals for net neutrality, agreeing that there shouldn’t be any fast lanes and calling for stricter regulations to keep things equal.
Wheeler, in a written statement, said Obama’s plan was a “welcome and important addition.”
Encouraged by the president’s proposals, the protesters returned to Wheeler’s home Monday night. But this time the mood was a bit lighter.
Margaret Flowers, organizer with Popular Resistance, told CNN that they “decided to change the tone a little bit.” They gave Wheeler’s wife a bottle of wine, and politely urged the chairman to be their “Internet hero” by adopting the President’s proposals.
He wasn’t quite as eager to engage with the protesters as he was in the morning, but things still remained cordial. Flowers said she was surprised the police weren’t called.
After Wheeler went inside, there was more singing.
The group plans to hold another event Thursday night by the FCC, Flowers said. Perhaps “some sort of dance party, something more festive.”