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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 divide.

Her 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."

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

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 she pointed out 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 FCC was creating a
committee to monitor the wireless space.