Rep. Waters: FCC Net Neutrality Rules Could Harm Minorities

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said late Tuesday that she was "very concerned" that the FCC's just-adopted network neutrality regulations are "insufficient and harmful to many American consumers," including creating a mobile digital

Waters's chief problem is that not all the rules apply to wireless broadband, a technology that is disproportionately used by African Americans and Latinos.

"Although the new rules bar fixed broadband internet providers from "unreasonable discrimination" against Web traffic, they exempt mobile broadband providers -- leaving millions without critical consumer protections and leading to a fractured Internet," she said.
Waters supported the FCC initiative to expand and codify the FCC's network neutrality guidelines, but said Tuesday
that "confusion and misinformation" had "overshadowed the commission's original intent." and blamed it on pressure from the telecom industry.

The order adopting the regs was based on a compromise struck between stakeholders, though toughened to pass muster with Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn.

"The rules approved by the FCC would not protect these communities if a wireless broadband service provider decides to block any application or service that is not a voice/video communications service," she said, "[i]n effect,
consumers of color, who are more dependent on wireless broadband to access the Internet, would have less governmental protection than Americans who can afford both wired and wireless connections."

Commissioner Clyburn, whose vote was crucial to the 3-2 decision, said at Tuesday's meeting she was also concerned about the possible disproportionate impact on minorities. "There is evidence in our record that some communities, namely African American and Hispanic, use and rely upon mobile Internet access much more than other socio-economic groups," she said, adding that she would have preferred the rules be applied equally to wired and wireless broadband.

But Clyburn noted that the order did not mean the FCC was pre-approving wireless conduct that would be prevented under the regs applying to wired broadband, and pointed out that the agency was creating a committee to monitor the wireless space.

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.