Activists: Why We Spent $7,000 to Fly Grumpy Cat Around the Comcast Center
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane — no, wait, it’s … Grumpy Cat?
Yes, last Friday Philadelphians could see Grumpy Cat in the sky. It was part of a stunt pulled by three groups: Demand Progress, Fight for the Future and Free Press. They were all celebrating the FCC’s ruling the day before that reclassified the Internet as a utility — a victory for those in favor of net neutrality.
The plane was actually supposed to fly on Thursday, the day of the ruling, but bad weather prevented it from going up until the following day. “It was a good opportunity to take a literal victory lap,” Demand Progress Director of Operations Mark Stanley says. “When you mess with the Internet, the Internet’s going to fight back and going to win.”
Hiring the plane cost $7,000. The logistics were handled by a company called Airsign, which offers Wildwood beach-style plane banners (and, among other things, skywriting). The seven grand was crowdfunded by about 5,000 supporters of the three groups. “The logistics from our end weren’t incredibly complex,” Stanley says.
But why Grumpy Cat? “For whatever reason the Internet loves cats,” Stanley says. “Among a lot of the other groups that work on these digital rights issues, we’ve always used the cat as sort of a mascot for the Internet. Grumpy Cat is a viral meme representing the viral nature of the net neutrality campaign. Four million people sent in comments to the FCC. Grumpy Cat is a mascot for the Internet.”
The three groups had expected Thursday’s FCC vote would go in their favor and prepared the banner as a celebration of the vote. But the fight is not over for pro-net neutrality activists; in a blog post last week, Comcast EVP David Cohen said Congress should now take action to reverse the FCC’s ruling.
“Some of these large ISPs like Comcast, they have immense influence in Washington,” Stanley says. (Comcast spent nearly $17 million on lobbying last year.) “We’ve already seen some legislative proposals that we call ‘net neutrality in name only.’ They would undermine the FCC’s ability to enforce net neutrality. Some of these proposals coming from Republican lawmakers would allow things that are antithetical to net neutrality.”
Comcast had no comment on the Grumpy Cat stunt.
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