Wanted: More Than 3.7 Million
Wanted: More Than 3.7 Million

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Wanted: More than 3.7 million
Why? To speak up.
To say what?
To not revoke net neutrality.
To whom?
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
A record 3.7 million comments reached the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the comment period on net neutrality that ended on September 15th 2014. With the largest outpouring of citizen comments and the Obama administration’s support, net neutrality seemed here to stay. The FCC in its final ruling said, “broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This ruling went to court and it was upheld by the DC Court of Appeals in June of 2016. Then FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections—now and in the future.”

And yet, here we are, barely a year later, fighting to keep net neutrality. No surprise here for it is David fighting against Goliath, you see.

The fight is 3.7 million versus 100 million. According to The New York Times, Verizon, Ajit Pai’s former employer, has spent over $100 million in lobbying dollars fighting this single rule.

Net neutrality rules ensure that all packets of data regardless of whether it is a Netflix release, a startup company’s latest product or your favorite chef’s cooking blog move through the network at similar speed, reaching all consumers. Telecom firms like Verizon Communications have been opposed to this, since they want to create “fast” and “slow” lanes, with the ability to charge for “faster” access. The desire to not have “fast” and “slow” lanes resonated most with consumers and that’s what they spoke about in the form of 3.7 million emails. And rightly so.

As of the time of writing this editorial, the FCC has not opened up a comment period nor have they published any definite net neutrality rules. I urge you to stay aware of this rapidly evolving fluid situation so that you can respond immediately.

Among the emails that reached the FCC, was one from yours truly. Though I sent an email to the FCC, I have not sent a single letter of protest about an abomination which I have responded to with silence. That is the image of women being slapped in Indian movies. How many times have we seen a daughter, a sister, a mother or a wife getting slapped for an apparent “transgression” within the setting of a home on the silver screen? There is a name for it—domestic violence.

The egregious cases of real-life domestic violence do not exist in a vacuum. There is a multilayered complexity that has to do with how women are treated within the home which then leads to extreme violence in a small percentage of cases.

A courteous acknowledgement of another Indian-American has led strangers to confide aspects of their personal lives, without expecting more than a sympathetic ear. In the most commonplace of settings, right here in the Bay Area, women have told me about how their in-laws treat them with indifference, how their husbands treat their daughters differently from their sons, and how they feel powerless in spite of their fat pay checks. I listened.

Recently, when I heard the loud thwacks of Neha Rastogi being hit by her husband Silicon Valley CEO Abhishek Gattani on the widely-circulated audio recording, I thought of the image of women being slapped in Indian movies.

When a woman gets slapped in a movie, is watching passively right? Just because I do not face these restrictions on my freedom, is it ok to just watch? In fact, should I not be the first in line to speak out? I am ashamed of having just watched and done nothing.

Nirupama V.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is a writer, dancer and choreographer. She was the former editor of India Currents magazine.