MMTC Backs Carefully Crafted Net Neutrality Legislation

The Multicultural, Media, Telecom & Internet Council (formerly the Minority Media & Telecom Council until Jan. 21), says it supports network neutrality legislation so long as it protects consumers, and even likens the opportunity to legislate net protections to historic civil rights legislation.

That is according to the testimony of Nicole Turner-Lee, MMTC's VP and chief research officer, for the Jan. 21 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on draft network neutrality legislation offered up by Republican leadership.

In that testimony she pointed out that it was Congress that ended slavery, extended equal protections, enfranchised millions and enacted the Civil Rights, Voting and Fair Housing Acts. "Today, Congress has the opportunity to show leadership again," she said.

"By enacting a legislative solution that preserves the open Internet, Congress can extend the promise of justice, equality and democracy not only to all citizens, but especially to communities of color and more vulnerable groups who are most in need of the opportunity provided by access to high-speed broadband."

The legislation would also prevent the FCC from reclassifying Internet access under Title II, something MMTC has opposed. Turner-Lee makes that case as well. "Monopoly control of the broadband marketplace is not what we have today," she says in her prepared testimony. "Because Title II is ill-suited to current realities, imposing its heavy-handed framework on the broadband marketplace would only serve to discourage investment and stifle infrastructure deployment."

But Turner-Lee says the legislation should not limit the FCC's authority to address other important issues such as preventing redlining, promoting universal service and protecting public safety.

To do that, she says the legislation should address, or at minimum reinforce, the FCC's ability to address the practice of digital redlining— not building out broadband to lower-income communities on the same terms as wealthier ones, which she calls "digital segregation,"

"Speaking in Cedar Falls last week, President Obama observed that high-speed broadband is 'not a luxury, it’s a necessity.' Congress should build on its past work and the President’s observation by empowering the FCC to prohibit digital redlining and thereby ensure equal access for all."

The second key to successful legislation, she says, is enforcement, which means "the creation of an accessible, affordable, and expedited procedure for the reporting and resolution of complaints." MMTC has already recommended that the FCC use a a process modeled on the " probable cause" standard in the Civil Rights Act, and she renews that pitch for legislation.

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.