Jessica Gonzalez: As US Court of Appeals rules against net neutrality, internet service providers will restrict access for communities of color
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: This is The Real News Network, and I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel handed down a ruling against the Federal Communications Commission that could have serious ramifications for the future of internet freedom. The decision struck down FCC guidelines adopted in 2010 that preserved net neutrality to guarantee internet service providers can’t slow down or block access to any online content.
In response, former FCC commissioner Michael Copps released a statement saying the ruling, quote, “is poised to end the free, open, and uncensored Internet that we have come to rely on.” “People depend on the Open Internet to connect and communicate with each other. . . . Without prompt corrective action by the Commission to reclassify broadband, this awful ruling will serve as a sorry memorial to the corporate abrogation of free speech”.
Now joining us to discuss this is Jessica Gonzalez. She’s the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. She leads their legal and policy work and executes its priorities before the federal agencies and in Congress.
Thank you so much for joining us, Jessica.
JESSICA GONZALEZ, EXECUTIVE VP, NATIONAL HISPANIC MEDIA COALITION: Thank you for having me, Jaisal.
NOOR: So, Jessica, I wanted to start off by getting your response to what former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said about this ruling. He said–and this was published online. He said, quote, “nothing needs fixing. The Internet has remained open and accessible without FCC micromanagement since it entered public life in the 1990s. And more regulation could produce harmful results, such as reduced infrastructure investment, stunted innovation, slower speeds and higher prices for consumers.” What’s your response?
GONZALEZ: We hear this one all the time. The truth is that network neutrality is important in ensuring what the Court even recognized was a virtuous cycle of innovation that happens online, edge providers creating opportunities not just for people to tell their stories, but also economic opportunities at the edge.
The very notion that we don’t need that neutrality regulations is quite wrong. Verizon, in its oral arguments before the court in this very case, actually admitted that without net neutrality regulations, they would be exploring commercial agreements where they would prioritize certain edge providers, certain content and applications based on those edge providers’ ability to pay more.
And that’s exactly why the net neutrality rules are so important. They ensure equality and fairness on the internet, and they are a catalyst for economic growth.
NOOR: And, Jessica, why is net neutrality so important for low-income communities, and especially communities of color? Communities of color especially like the equal access to the internet that other communities have. And this is due to issues around affordability, which this decision could affect. And also talk about the importance of content, of communities of color being able to reach media which present news and other information in a perspective that emphasizes their voices.
GONZALEZ: Latinos and other people of color have long faced discrimination at the hands of mainstream media. What is exciting for us about the internet is that we are able to share our own stories fairly and accurately, to push back against discrimination, to organize our community for positive change, and even in many cases to earn a living. So this is vitally important for communities of color.
And it’s also vitally important for anyone who does not have broadband today. Nearly a million Americans, mostly black and brown people, have no broadband access at home. This is an opportunity to divide. It’s a digital divide that is creating further barriers for some of our most disenfranchised communities to get equal access to education, to job applications, to healthcare, to civic engagement opportunities, and to get informed and communicate with their family and friends.
And so it’s vitally important that the FCC go back to the drawing board, reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, and get the ball rolling to not only ensure equality and network neutrality on the internet, but also expand federal policies that help make broadband more affordable. It has an authority problem right now that is related to this case. And if it asserts Title II authority and treats broadband providers as common carriers, there are a variety of options that they can pursue to help make broadband more affordable so that our communities start getting more and more connected.
Latinos, the Latino community is one of the least connected communities. Just over 50 percent of Latinos in the U.S. have broadband internet access at home. That number drops to 38 percent for Spanish speakers. And so we really need to close the divide.
And one way to do it would be for the FCC to assert its authority over broadband and ensure that it’s actually affordable, because it’s not today. We have some of the most expensive and least of–and slowest (excuse me) internet of many of our allies in the international community. And so we need to change that.
NOOR: And, Jessica, last question. We’re almost out of time for this segment. Who does this ruling benefit, just so we’re clear about that? And what are you calling on concerned citizens to do today?
GONZALEZ: At the outset, the immediate outset, it benefits wealthy internet service providers that are already charging us an arm and a leg to get online. And now they are going to be allowed to make special deals with big corporations that can pay more to have their content go faster. And so they are the immediate beneficiaries.
This could easily be undone. The rights of the people, the rights of communities of color, but the rights of all consumers really can be put before the rights of big cable and telephone companies that are earning astronomical profits every year. All that has to happen is the FCC chairman, Wheeler, must reclassify broadband providers as Title II service providers under the Communications Act.
And I’m calling on everyone who’s concerned about continuous access to affordable internet connections and to be able to give their news and information from a diversity of sources, I’m calling on them to join NHMC and our partners as we push for the FCC chairman to do what he needs to do. And you can go to our website at NHMC.org for more information.
NOOR: Jessica, thank you so much for joining us.
GONZALEZ: Thank you.
NOOR: Follow us at The Real News on Twitter, Tweet me questions and comments. Thank you so much for joining us.
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