Net neutrality opponents are taking a page out of their rivals’ grassroots playbook

If there’s one thing the Internet is good at, it’s galvanizing Web users to action with a good David-and-Goliath story. For months, advocates of strong net neutrality have been whipping supporters into opposing large, incumbent corporations that stand to benefit from charging content firms for better, faster access to consumers. Some broadband companies have pushed back strongly against that impression, but that’s only served to highlight the bright line dividing commercial Internet providers from ordinary Americans.

Now, however, some who see it from the internet service providers’ perspective are taking a page out of the public interest groups’ playbook, with a bit of a David-and-Goliath story of their own. A market-minded think tank is making a play for Americans who object to heavier regulation of Internet service providers. The push began this week with a Web site, Don’t Break the Net, that urges the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission not to subject Internet providers to heavier regulation.

Behind the Web site is a libertarian think tank known as TechFreedom. TechFreedom openly draws inspiration from the much more experienced and powerful progressive grassroots groups: Don’t Break the Net encourages you to write to the FCC advocating a “hands-off” policy. And doing so will automatically add you to TechFreedom’s e-mail list (in the non-profit universe, the size of a group’s e-mail list is often taken as a sign of its wealth and influence). Don’t Break the Net even acknowledges copying the open-source code that went into the net neutrality advocates’ own site, Battle for the Net, which represents some of the Web’s most well-known properties — Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser; Etsy; reddit; Kickstarter and others.

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