My first experience as a lobbyist went great – ok, I got lost on the way there and one of Senator Klobuchar’s kind staffers had to literally guide me as I walked down Washington Ave, providing visual landmarks for me to find my way. But other than THAT. (Oh, yes! I was using google maps. How did you know?)
The beauty of this particular meeting was that it was arranged by Free Press, an organization in Massachusetts dedicated to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. They sent an email to all their members — in every state — asking us if anyone was interested in visiting their Senator in person to ask for a commitment on net neutrality. So thanks to Free Press who really made this day happen on the back end – I just had to show up! The funny thing, the lovely Rachel at Free Press explained during our first call, was that this would technically be an act of lobbying … which would make me, technically, a lobbyist! Instantly, an image of Glenda the Good Witch asking me, “Are you a good lobbyist or a bad lobbyist?” popped into my head. (Good, good!!)
The other great thing was that we had a teleconference the night before (moderated by the awesome Candace at Free Press) which allowed us to get to know each other a little bit and decide who was going to be the Note-taker, the Photographer, the Introducer, and the Asker. I volunteered to do the formal ask, where I would specifically say what it is that we were asking for as a group. I was definitely nervous the night before but really excited on the train on the way there. I kept repeating my ask over and over in my head as I chugged extra strong coffee. I had met Senator Klobuchar at the net neutrality meeting she had hosted with former FCC Chairman Genachowski back in 2010 at the U of M’s Carlson School of Business so I reminded myself to mention that too.
The first part of the meeting (which only lasted about 25 minutes total) consisted of each of us introducing ourselves and saying why net neutrality was important to us. I said that as an independent blogger, I want to know that my website will load just as quickly and easily as the New York Times’ website. Even though I don’t have any corporate backers, my voice should matter just as much and be just as easily heard by those who want to hear it. I stressed that I agreed with Senator Franken that at the deepest level, Net Neutrality is a 1st Amendment issue because it comes down to freedom of speech.
For some constituents, their reasoning was as simple as content shouldn’t be discriminated against (or shown preference toward) by Internet Service Providers, period (agree, agree! hear hear!) and for others it was about their livelihood – their profession – being dependent on an internet that allows their clients and customers to be able to reach them. Everyone I met was totally awesome and passionate about the importance of equality online and Adam, Senator Klobuchar’s aide, was totally welcoming and attentive during the entire session.
I wrapped it up with the formal ask, first saying that I was a longtime supporter of Senator Klobuchar’s and had voted for her twice now, first in 2006 and again in 2012, and that I knew she was a proponent of an open internet because she had hosted the meeting with the former FCC Chairman back in 2010, where I had briefly gotten to say hello to her, and that we all were appreciative of her efforts. Then I gave The Ask: We ask Senator Klobuchar to make a strong public statement in support of the FCC reclassifying broadband internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service under Title II of the Communications Act which would allow the FCC to write and enforce rules that prevent the blocking and discrimination of content online by Internet Service Providers. One of my fellow lobbyists, Chad, suggested I email Adam directly the words of the ask and cc all of the others in the meeting so that Senator Klobuchar would have the words to review herself — Adam agreed that would be a good idea and replied back to us the very same day that he would get an answer for us and reply shortly.
If you have not made your own comment to the FCC in support of Net Neutrality, here is one link (you can also go straight to the FCC’s website but this one by US PIRG is easiest because they provide text for you). Here is what I said – and feel free to copy/paste it:
Please reclassify broadband internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service which would allow the FCC to write and enforce rules that prevent the blocking and discrimination of content online by ISP’s. Please do not allow fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet.
Here’s me talking about it in Day 96 of my ongoing series, “A Year in the Life of the Progressive Patriot.”