Media Advocacy and Civil Rights Group Sets the Record Straight on
Why Reclassification Is Essential to Protecting Voices of Color on the Web
In response to today’s Capitol Hill briefing on net neutrality hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute and sponsored by Verizon, AT&T and Comcast — Alex Nogales, President & CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition released the following statement:
“Today’s hill briefing featured a one-sided panel that failed to honestly present how this issue will impact Latinos across the country. Some of the panelists have well-documented ties to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that stand to gain the most if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeds with its proposed rules for a paid fast lane. Indeed, one panelist, my friend, Martin Chavez, who spoke on the panel on behalf of the Hispanic Telecommunications and Technology Partnership (HTTP), is both a Senior Advisor to HTTP and a Consultant at the Ibarra Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that counts Verizon amongst its clientele. Let me be very clear – HTTP is nothing more than an industry front-group that is at best misinformed and at worst intentionally distorting facts as it actively opposes efforts to better serve the communications needs of Latinos.”
The Internet is a democratizing force where people of color and others who have suffered discrimination at the hands of mainstream media for decades, can fully participate in the American economy, democracy and media. On the Internet people of color are telling our own stories with fairness and accuracy, organizing against racism and stereotyping, educating ourselves, engaging in civil society, producing and monetizing content and applications, and running our small businesses. If ISPs are allowed to block or degrade access to any content, this will threaten access for communities of color at home and on mobile devices and stifle competition in a market already dominated by billion dollar companies. TheFCC should exercise its legal authority and classify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.
“Industry talking heads are reverting back to their predictable playbook of rote anti-government rhetoric, loose and unfounded analysis and recasting the history of telecommunications for their own convenience,” stated NHMC’s Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Jessica J. González. “Here’s the truth about why people of color win if the FCC reclassifies ISPs as common carriers under Title II:
- In the absence of ISP regulation under a common carriage theory, prices are through the roof with constant increases, endless below the line fees, and more. Nearly half of American Latino families do not have home broadband connections for two main reasons: because it is not available in their areas or because they cannot afford it. African Americans and Native Americans also suffer from very low home broadband adoption rates. The status quo should be unacceptable to anyone who cares about bringing affordable broadband to poor and rural communities – we need change! Internet service across the U.S. is increasingly slower and more expensive than in a litany of other countries whose governments have provided for meaningful competition and affordability. Prices have and will continue to rise absent regulation due to a lack of competition and an insatiable desire to increase margins and achieve the most revenue per user.
- Deployment of ubiquitous, affordable telephone service across the U.S., which is commonly seen as a success, was made possible in part by common carriage requirements. Deployment of broadband has not been nearly as successful in a landscape without any common carriage regulations, and the notion that ISPs will bring more affordable access to our communities if only we allow them to run free of any common sense regulations is a false choice which runs afoul of history.
- Based on careful analysis of the Verizon v. FCC case, reclassification is the onlyway that the FCC can achieve sustainable authority to prevent blocking and discrimination on the Internet. Reclassifying ISPs under a Title II common carriage theory provides the FCC with a source of authority, not necessarily regulation in itself. Reclassification does not automatically equal “heavy-handed regulation.”
- Reclassification would provide the legal authority for the FCC to modernize Universal Service Fund (USF) programs such as E-rate and Lifeline to achieve universally affordable broadband access at schools, libraries and home. There is absolutely no evidence nor any coherent legal theory under which reclassification would somehow stifle modernization of the E-rate program. The USF statutes are housed in Title II of the Communications Act, and indeed the FCC has had to do legal gymnastics to expand many of these programs to broadband in the absence of reclassification – with the ISPs fighting them every step of the way!”
“We all want our communities to have unfettered and affordable access to every lawful thing the internet provides,” stated Nogales, “but we cannot get there without real open Internet protections rooted in a Title II legal theory.”
For more on NHMC’s efforts towards universal, affordable and open communications, please visit http://www.nhmc.org/issues/.