Black Lives Matter's Message to Hill: Net Neutrality Matters

Black Lives Matter has joined with Color of Change, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and others to call on House members to support restoring FCC net neutrality rules.

The rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization under a Title II common carrier regime, voted on a party line by the previous Democratic Majority, were nixed by the current Republican FCC Majority on another party line vote Dec. 14.

In a letter to the leadership of the Tri-Caucus (the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus), the groups, under the letterhead of the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, argued that net neutrality is a racial justice issue, so the caucus members should all be supporting the Congressional Review Act effort to nullify the FCC vote to eliminate the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of internet access.

The Senate voted 42 to 47 last week to nullify that December reg rollback order, which is scheduled to take effect June 11. A similar vote is being pushed in the House, with a petition to force a floor vote filed last week. But it needs all the Dems and a half dozen House Republicans--the Senate CRA only needed three moderate Republicans, which it got. At last count, it was well short of the 218 votes needed for passage.

Related: ISPs on Net Neutrality CRA: No Way

"Net neutrality has enabled people of color to speak for ourselves and tell our own stories and empower our communities without asking permission from broadband gatekeepers on whether our voices are worthy of being heard," the groups wrote the caucus in a letter dated May 18. "We have also used the open internet to organize online and fight for the human rights and dignity of our people. It has enabled us to say #MeToo and no to mass deportation, mass incarceration, the Muslim ban and the Dakota access pipeline."

They charged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with the decision "to kill net neutrality," "punish the most vulnerable members of society," as well as with "waging a war on the poor," the sort of harsh rhetoric that has come to characterize the criticism of the chairman's position.

"The first year of Chairman Pai’s tenure has served as a wake up call," the groups wrote. "His agency’s war on the poor is an effort to deny communities of color and low-income households the basic ability to access modern communication networks and prevent us from fully participating in society."

The letter was sent just as Pai was heading out on a road trip to promote closing the digital divide, including promoting healthcare for the poor in an op ed alongside former liberal Democratic FCC chair Newton Minow.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.