Tents went up at Google headquarters Tuesday as a group of activists called on the company to take action against proposed FCC rules on Internet neutrality.
The group of about 20 set up camp Tuesday afternoon, June 24, at Google headquarters near Charleston Park and were not immediately asked to leave, even though organizer Zaigham Kabir said much of the camp was on Google property.
Google, Facebook, Amazon and other companies have joined activists in opposing proposed new Federal Communication Commission rules allowing Internet Service Providers to create a tiered Internet, saying in a letter that the proposals "represent a grave threat to the Internet." The Occupy Google group is concerned that the proposed rules would lead to online censorship, new fees and discrimination against users by ISPs. Organizers wants Google to step up the pressure.
"We're not here to protest Google," Kabir said. "Some in group have concerns with surveillance technology," he said, alluding to Google Glass, "but that's not why we're here. We're here to get Google to take action for net neutrality."
The group points to Google's action in 2012 against the Stop Online Piracy Act, when the company blocked out its own logo at google.com and posted a link to an online petition which garnered 7 million signatures. It was a key move in the battle that the group wants to see happen again, Kabir said.
Of particular concern to the group are new rules that have been proposed by the Federal Communication Commission that could allow Internet Service Providers to create a playing field on the internet where companies who can pay for faster internet service have an advantage. ISP's have been lobbying hard for such a plan.
The group is also particularly concerned with a court decision in January. FCC rules adopted last year that prohibited blocking or slowing down websites were struck down by the United States Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
"Ever since that court ruling in January, all these ISPs can block websites, they can discriminate against websites, charge access fees, it's basically a form of censorship," said Kabir, echoing concerns reportedly raised by Columbia University professor Tom Wu, who coined the term "net neutrality."
"We feel this is an attack on free speech itself," Kabir said.
Comedian John Oliver brought the issue to the attention of millions on June 1 with a biting rant on the topic of net neutrality that went viral -- over 4 million hits -- and reportedly helped spur over 300,000 emails to the FCC on net neutrality.
"Yes, the guy who used to run the cable industry's lobbying arm is now head of the agency tasked with regulating it," Oliver said of Tom Wheeler, President Barack Obama's appointee to head the FCC. "That is the equivalent of needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo."
"We want an open and free Internet, we call on Google to stand with us as we do that," Kabir said.
Kabir said members of the group were linked to Occupy Wall Street movement and several Internet freedom efforts.
More information, including details about a July 10 online day of protest, are at
occupygoogle.org. To comments on the FCC proposal, go to fcc.gov/comments.