Civil rights organizations taking positions on internet neutrality

Reposted from New York Community Alliance’s Voices that Must Be Heard: By Erick Galindo, EDLP, (Translated from Spanish by Marissa Billowitz):

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to create a series of rules regarding internet monopolies, consumer protection agencies are pressuring ethnic and civil rights defense groups like the Urban League, One Economy, and the National Council of La Raza to support neutrality on the web.

Some civil rights organizations – the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership – are following in the steps of the telecommunications giants – Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast. Others are opting not to oppose the latter companies. Still others, including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and non-White media groups, are affiliated with consumer protection groups and with internet giant, Google.

The Center for Media Justice is encouraging groups to support net neutrality. Without this neutrality, they fear that access will be distributed unequally, and that eventually, extra costs will emerge for poor and non-White communities. Those that support the Center for Media Justice (CMJ) met across the country in January to try to change the minds of the traditional civil rights organizations in order to support their position.

Upon meeting with several of these groups and with federal legislators, the CMJ found minimal opposition to its arguments. “For us, it was new information, that there were civil rights groups that believe that net neutrality is essential to the protection of rights and the power of people of color on the internet,” said Malkia Cyril, Executive Director of CMJ. No group was directly opposed to the idea, she explained.

Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Hispanic Link that lack of information is at the root of any conflict between consumer protection groups and civil rights groups. “Many people of color lack access to traditional means to share their work, and they have used the internet for that purpose,” he elaborated.

Cyril added, “The directors of the groups thanked us for having the meeting without allowing the media companies to facilitate it. Until now, all the information that they have received has come from the telecommunications corporations. The organizations that have strong relationships with communities of color in the regions and states tend to have a more favorable position toward net neutrality because they understand what its real impact is.”

Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of LULAC, said that the opposite is true. He said that the average member of the Latino community is more concerned about those who infringe on their privacy through the computer and about viruses.

The only opposition that LULAC expresses toward net neutrality is with the anti-discrimination clause, which prohibits internet service providers from showing preferences regarding content or access.

Wilkes noted that LULAC’s concern is with any adverse effect that the legislation could have with adopting broadband. “What we do not want with net neutrality is to raise the cost. We know that our communities are sensitive regarding the price,” he said.

Cyril said that it would be illegal to pass along the cost to the consumer, adding that she believes that the FCC will approve net neutrality and that she is open to working with LULAC and others.

Galindo is editor of Hispanic Link Weekly Report