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Member Profile: Jake Lyonfields & Net Neutrality

Nebula member Jake Lyonfields is spearheading an effort to call attention to the Federal Communication Commission repeal of net neutrality.

The effort includes a unique spin on the situation, as he’s contacting the owners and operators of St. Louis-area coworking spaces, asking them to sign onto a letter that would be shared with Missouri’s two Senators (Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill) as well as the U.S. House of Representatives from the St. Louis region: Democrat Lacy Clay and Republican Ann Wagner.

“I was part of the nationwide protest to protect net neutrality that happened on December 7, 2017, which occurred a week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality,” he says, noting that he’s “just a concerned citizen. There was a grassroots effort to protest at Verizon stores across the region. After we demonstrated, I was thinking to myself ‘how do we make sure the interests of independent businesses, contractors, non-profits and folks who work for themselves are represented in this discussion?’

“Obviously, the internet service providers in this country have invested a lot of time, energy and money into replying to the topic of net neutrality,” he says. “I hope to provide a way to represent the interest of folks who’ll be harmed by the repeal of net neutrality. Right now, net neutrality has been repealed. The internet service providers haven’t announced, or otherwise indicated publicly, what they are pursuing, whether that’s blocking or throttling content, or opening up a tollbooth on the internet highway. But there’s been every indication from sources like their shareholder meetings that these entities eventually plan on taking such action.”

He adds that the solution now lies with Congress. Having coworking facilities indicate support for net neutrality, he hopes, is part of a wide net of feedback for Congresspersons.

“Right now, net neutrality organizers across the country are focused on the Congressional Review Act,” Lyonfields says. “Congress can repeal the repeal of net neutrality, to put it that way, though a simple majority in both houses of Congress passing a measure that says the FCC’s net neutrality repeal is no longer valid. By law, they have until March 5th to do that, and then the President would have to sign that bill.”

He’s hopeful that there’s “bipartisan interest in preserving net neutrality and enough dialogue and energy taking place to pass a CRA measure through Congress.”

Lyonfields says that “the long-term game of organizers is not only to undo the repeal of net neutrality but also to craft statewide and national legislation that further protects a free and open Internet. My day job is in health care, but I’m also a small business owner and community organizer, so net neutrality is important to me personally. Maintaining and strengthening a free and open Internet is essential not only for creating a competitive and innovative economy, but also for the preservation of our democracy generally since the Internet is important for organizing and free speech.”

Later this month, he hopes to publish a list of the St. Louis area coworking facilities that support his efforts; Nebula has signed on.

“We’re basically contacting these other coworking facilities in the region to get them on board,” he says. “We’re going to keep at it and gather as many signatories as possible from folks who own or manage coworking spaces, and then we’ll publish the letter and make some noise about it. I’m grateful to Jason Deem and others for putting their weight behind this initiative. This is democracy in action.”