On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled plans to enforce net neutrality by regulating the Internet as a utility, preventing providers from charging more for access to certain sites. It was what a coalition of activists and cable companies had lobbied for since the growth of broadband. It was condemned within seconds by Republicans, who have generally applied a familiar framework to the FCC's decision: More regulation means more power for the creativity-killing Kafka characters in Washington. (This has been the argument since before a court struck down the last FCC rule, but that decision didn't hurt.)
The rule will get a vote in three weeks, leaving plenty of time for wrangling by groups with similar names and layman-befuddling agendas. Exhibit A: Protect Internet Freedom, an ad hoc conservative-founded group that's been collecting signatures (150,000 plus so far) for delivery to the FCC. Net Neutrality advocates bombarded the commission with comments in favor of proposed rules; the Internet Freedom Protectors will answer them. Today, they're launching a short film that posits a dark future of government Internet regulators dropping into homes and interrupting Cinemax-ready cable guy scenarios. The "government regulator as real guy" trope is an attention getting classic, from the unused David Zucker "taxman" ad of 2006 to the viral "Creepy Uncle Sam" videos of 2014.
Protect Internet Freedom should not be confused with Save the Internet, Free Press's campaign in favor of the proposed FCC rule change, or Battle for the Net, another joint Free Press project. The pro-neutrality faction gained a ton of momentum when John Oliver devoted an episode of his HBO show to their cause, and to the obscure public comment process; the campaign against the rule wants in on the pop culture, signature-powered sweepstakes.