Here's the message we'll send to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
I'm writing to express my disapproval of the baseless and disingenuous fearmongering over using Title II to prevent discrimination of web traffic that was found in comments submitted by National Urban League (NUL) and Minority Media and Technology Council (MMTC). Any real protection of Net Neutrality for Latino and communities of color should include broadband reclassification under Title II, which would mean that ISPs are treated as a common carrier which would allow the FCC to adopt rules to prevent discrimination online.
The arguments of NUL and MMTC are predicated on two glaring falsehoods: first, that classifying broadband as an “Information service” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act gives the FCC sufficient authority to stop Internet "fast lanes," and second, that classification as “Common Carrier” under Title II would somehow harm minority communities by stifling investment in the Internet's infrastructure.
In fact, your proposed rule, written to assume authority from Section 706, would explicitly allow Internet fast lanes, because 706 just doesn't give the FCC the clear legal authority to enforce a stronger rule.1,2,3 A Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has also established this in the Verizon vs FCC case.4
Additionally, reclassification would not hurt investment in infrastructure. In fact, evidence clearly demonstrates that investment in broadband infrastructure was greater leading up to 2005, when broadband was classified as a telecommunications service, than since 2005, when it was removed from Title II authority. Certain of a level competitive playing field, Net Neutrality would also spur investments in new online businesses and services — venture capitalists themselves are calling for strong Net Neutrality assurance with Title II classification. 5, 6, 7
As you are well aware, Chairman Wheeler, the demonization of Title II as anti-business is a strategy right out of the telecom playbooks. The FCC has the authority to forbear onerous or irrelevant sections of Title II while vigorously enforcing the elements that confer the strongest protections for a free and open Internet for consumers.
It bears noting that many of the organizations repeating these bald canards developed by Big Telecom and their PR agencies also benefit from the generosity of these companies, and can hardly be considered honest brokers in their breathless exhortations to use 706 to make a Net Neutrality rule.
LULAC, one of the organizations most vocally against reclassification, has received millions of dollars from the telecommunications industry in recent years. Its last conference was sponsored by AT&T, Comcast, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a cable industry lobbying group.8 The group is in a long-term corporate partnership with Comcast that began in 2006.9 And between 2004 and 2007, LULAC received at least $2.5 million from AT&T.10
Similarly, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) — an organization acting like a front group for the telecommunications industry in a scathing Center for Public Integrity report last year11 — has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from broadband providers over the years, and has repeatedly organized opposition to Net Neutrality and reclassification.12,13 And Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), another well-known front group, regularly gives voice to lobbyists for the telecommunications industry — its “Senior Advisor” Martin Chavez is on staff with one of Verizon’s D.C. lobbying firms, the Ibarra Strategy Group — even as it accepts millions of dollars in contributions from those companies.14
It represents a major conflict of interest when these organizations begin to take on positions that support telecommunications companies' interests. We also know that telecoms and their lobbyists view these donations as an important investment. Verizon reportedly cut off support for the National Hispanic Media Coalition when the organization took a pro-Net Neutrality position in 2010.15 And one telecom lobbyist infamously said in 2008, "You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them... You say, 'I can't use this one — I already used them last time…' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"16
There are too many outstanding, unresolved questions about these organizations' conflict of interest in regards to open Internet issues to assume that they legitimately speak for the communities they claim to represent. I therefore call on you to reject the National Urban League’s and Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s anti-Title II filing and assure open Internet for Latinos and other communities of color by reclassifying broadband as a common carrier protected under Title II.
1. It's True: The FCC's 'Open Internet' Proposal Would Bless Internet Discrimination and Destroy Net Neutrality, Free Press, May 22, 2014
2. Title II is the key to net neutrality—so what is it?, Daily Dot, May 20, 2014
3. Y Combinator has filed an official comment with the FCC, Y Combinator, July 14, 2014
4. Comments of Internet Freedom Supporters, Voices for Internet Freedom, July 18, 2014
5. Fighting the Zombie Lies: Sorry ISPs, Title II Is Good for the Economy, Free Press, May 14, 2014
6. U.S. 'net neutrality' plan faces heat from venture capitalists, Reuters, May 8, 2014
7. The Biggest Lie About Net Neutrality, Save The Internet, August 7, 2014
8. LULAC's 17th Annual Legislative Conference and Awards Gala is a Huge Success, League of United Latin American Citizens, February 27, 2014
9. LULAC Joins Comcast “Our Time To Vote,” a $5 Million National Multi-Cultural Voter Education And Registration Campaign, League of United Latin American Citizens, January 11, 2008
10. AT&T and League of United Latin American Citizens Empower Low-Income Hispanic Communities With Technology, League of United Latin American Citizens, April 17, 2007
11. Civil rights group's FCC positions reflect industry funding, critics say, Center for Public Integrity, June 6, 2013
12. HTTP joins MMTC and 35 national minority and civil rights organizations in filing on the Open Internet, Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership, July 20, 2014
13. Net Neutrality Astroturfing Stirs Up Conflict Between Latino/Minority Groups, TechDirt, July, 24, 2014
14. Open Internet Panelists’ Ties to Industry Exposed, National Hispanic Media Coalition, July 9, 2014
15. Why Is The NAACP Siding With Verizon Over Net Neutrality, Huffington Post, July 31, 2014
16. See note 13