AFRICANGLOBE – The online advocacy group Color of Change has been a staunch defender of net neutrality, which represents for them, as well as many liberal and progressive groups and millions of Americans, a free and open Internet. So when 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who have all received thousands in campaign contributions from the telecom industry, recently signed a letter to the FCC attacking net neutrality, Color of Change (COC) quickly revved up its engines and shifted into attack mode.
In a letter to its members, signed by its staff team, COC stated: “We need to hold these representatives accountable, and make sure the FCC and other members of Congress know they don’t speak for Black people on this issue.”
They invited members to join them in calling out Black members of Congress doing Big Telecom’s dirty work. From the COC perspective, net neutrality has made the Internet a level playing field for all voices, allowing bloggers, activists and Black entrepreneurs to flourish online despite being blocked from ownership and participation in traditional media.
“Now, these CBC members are using deceptive arguments to help giant corporations attack net neutrality, and claiming that they speak for Black America.”
The FCC is now considering reclassifying Internet service as a public utility, which would give it strong authority to enforce net neutrality for the public good. But as COC points out,
“The phone and cable companies are fighting this tooth and nail, calling in favors from organizations and members of Congress they’ve supported financially for years. Sadly, some civil rights organizations and Black members of Congress are attacking net neutrality with dishonest and deceptive arguments handed to them by the telecom lobby. Ten members of the CBC recently signed Rep. Gene Green’s letter to the FCC attacking reclassification (Reps. Bobby Rush, G.K. Butterfield, Sanford Bishop, Corrine Brown, Lacy Clay, Alcee Hastings, Gregory Meeks, David Scott, Bennie Thompson, and Marc Veasey). The letter claims to support Internet freedom while doing everything it can to undermine it.”
On the other hand, the COC is quick to point out, “Thankfully, some Black members of Congress are fighting to protect net neutrality — Rep. Keith Ellison co-authored a letter to the FCC supporting reclassification, and it was signed by Reps. Barbara Lee, John Lewis, John Conyers, Donna Edwards, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charlie Rangel, Bobby Scott, and Andre Carson.”
As the COC communique documents, all of the CBC members attacking net neutrality have taken large amounts of campaign money from the telecom industry. They add:
“And it’s not just campaign money — since just 2008 the telecom lobby has spent millions on donations to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBCI), nonprofit organizations associated with the CBC. These organizations claim that their purpose is to provide scholarships, educate the public, and develop new leaders. But the corporate money also funds lavish galas to honor members of the CBC, and top lobbyists from the telecom industry sit on the boards and committees of the CBCF and CBCI.
“This year, CBCF ‘honored’ Comcast with its ‘Distinguished Corporation Award.’ Last year, it was Time Warner. Comcast touted its award to Congress earlier this year while seeking approval for its merger with Time Warner.”
This is not the first time COC has been engaged in fighting for Internet freedom.
“In 2011, thousands of ColorOfChange.org members signed petitions and made phone calls asking House Democratic leadership to prevent Congressman Rush from securing a key committee position that would have allowed him to do even more damage to net neutrality. Because of our actions, Rush didn’t get the position.”
“Nevertheless, Rush and other Black representatives have continued to use their status as members of the Congressional Black Caucus — which is supposed to advocate for the interests of Black America — to attack net neutrality. It’s unacceptable and dangerous: not only does this kind of influence peddling threaten the Internet as a medium where Black voices and ventures have an equal shot; it also undermines the credibility and power of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has historically been a critically important voice for Black America.
“Now is the time to raise our voices again and make it clear that these representatives don’t speak for us on this issue. If enough of us speak out, we can make sure that all Black representatives know there will be a price to pay for betraying Internet freedom — and that if they fight for net neutrality, they’ll have our support. And by speaking out now, we can make sure the FCC knows how important net neutrality is to Black America.”
The COC sees this summer as a crucial time when the FCC will choose to either protect Internet freedom or “allow phone and cable companies to take unprecedented control over what we see, do, and say online. ”
The COC has made their position clear. Time will tell if any members of the CBC Telecom 10 pay heed to this appeal for them to see net neutrality as protecting the interests of their constituents, or if they are more comfortable in the board rooms of the big telecoms.
By: Don Hazen
We’re All Detroiters Now – THEBLACKCHANNEL.NET