More than 30 people attended the "AT&T: Bringing Us To Tiers" protest near the AT&T/SBC building (Congress and Federal) in downtown Chicago, organized by the media activist group Chicago Media Action.
Attendees unfurled two fifteen-foot banners on opposite ends of Chicago's Congress Parkway, a six-lane freeway exchange through downtown Chicago. Each banner read "STOP AT&T from ruining the internet", with the STOP resembling a literal stop sign, appropriate given the proximity to the flows of rush-hour traffic. The banners also featured the websites of savetheinternet.com and saveaccess.org.
The protest was one of a series of protests convened across the country in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Newark, as part of a grassroots-organized day of protest on May 24 entitled the National Day of Outrage.
The "tiers" in the action referred to a proposed "tiered" internet, which AT&T has and continues to advocate. AT&T and other telecom companies propose turning the reasonably free and open internet into a forced separate-and-unequal internet where general speed and access would be markedly reduced in favor of a drastic "tollroad" approach. The key point in this struggle is the internet's first amendment -- the guarantee of non-discrimination of internet content, which some call "network neutrality", which AT&T and other companies have lobbied to abolish.
Related legislation under consideration in Congress would eliminate community access television and all local control of telephone and cable TV franchising. This would also likely escalate discriminatory redlining by phone and cable corporations against low-income households and communities. AT&T is suing six Chicago suburbs over public rights-of-way involving AT&T's proposed video-by-phoneline service, called Project Lightspeed.
These issues are also punctuated by a growing list of scandals involving corporate and government corruption, dangerous mergers, and complicity with illegal NSA domestic spying. On the issue of NSA surveillance, six noted Chicagoans (including Studs Terkel) filed suit against AT&T for presumed privacy violations the day before the National Day of Outrage.
The event drew corporate cameras from Chicago's ABC and NBC television affiliates, as did reporters from Chicago's main 24-hour newsradio station (a CBS affiliate). The event also drew coverage from Chicago Indymedia (radio and video) and CAN TV, Chicago's main public access affiliate.
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