August 1, 2014

Major Civil Rights Organizations Sell Out on Net Neutrality

On July 15, the FCC closed its comment period on open internet rules – or “net neutrality” – but not before a slew of major civil rights organizations filed documents against net neutrality and Title II reclassification of broadband service.

In May CMA wrote many of these groups urging them to seek protections for PEG Access channels as part of the Comcast-Time Warner merger proceeding.  Any group concerned about speech as a civil right has an important public obligation to protect community media channels and resources.

The filings reveal a who’s who of civil rights groups willing to shill on behalf of the telecom industry. One filing lists prominent civil rights groups NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Urban League, the National Council on Black Civil Participation and the National Action Network. The other features the Council of Korean Americans, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Black Farmers Association, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, the Latino Coalition, and many more.

Of course, the groups listed on these filings do not speak for all communities of color on telecom policy, and there are civil rights groups out there that actually support net neutrality, including Color of Change and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Joseph Torres with Free Press told VICE that communities of color believe a free and open Internet is essential in the digital age, especially when most non-whites do not own radio stations, broadcast outlets or other forms of mass media. “Protecting real net neutrality is critical for people of color because an open Internet gives us the opportunity to speak for ourselves without having to ask corporate gatekeepers for permission,” Torres says.

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