Voices for Internet Freedom: FCC Chairman's Anti-Net Neutrality Plan Will Harm People of Color

Contact Info: 

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai unveiled his plan to kill the agency’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules. If successful, the move would pave the way for internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to discriminate online.

Net Neutrality is the principle that requires ISPs to treat all data equally, and prohibits them from discriminating or providing preference to any data, regardless of its source, content or destination.

In a speech hosted by right-wing activist group FreedomWorks, President Trump’s FCC appointee announced that he will launch a proceeding to dismantle the legal framework essential to maintaining Net Neutrality. The FCC's landmark 2015 Open Internet Order rests on the laws in Title II of the Communications Act, the statute that governs the FCC and sets out the basic obligations for carriers that provide internet access.

The Voices for Internet Freedom Network, a coalition of organizations representing communities of color on internet issues, opposes Chairman Pai’s push to kill Net Neutrality, a move that would diminish the opportunities for people of color to be heard online. In the past several months, communities of color have used the open internet to organize against the Trump administration’s reactionary  agenda.

“Chairman Pai’s plan to gut the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules will devastate Black communities,” said Color Of Change Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “Net Neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open internet, which has been crucial to today’s fights for civil rights and equality. Our ability to have our voices heard in this democracy depends on an open internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance, rather than financial backing. Net Neutrality helps ensure that the internet is a place for innovation and opportunity for all, rather than just the wealthy few. Chairman Pai has now joined the chorus of Republicans in Washington who have signed on to Donald Trump’s corporate attack on our freedoms. But we won’t go down without a fight. Heading into the FCC’s May 18 meeting, we’re going to demand that our communities’ access to the internet is protected. This is an attack on 21st-century civil rights, and we are committed to defending them.”

“Chairman Pai’s plan will destroy Net Neutrality and is a direct attack on Latinos and other communities of color,” said National Hispanic Media Coalition Director of Policy and Legal Affairs Carmen Scurato. “Net Neutrality is critical to our continual fight for human dignity and equality. The open internet has empowered us to tell our own stories and organize for civic change in a world where Latinos are still often silenced, stereotyped and discriminated against by traditional media outlets. By handing over control of the internet to corporations, Chairman Pai will inevitably stymie voices of color.”

“We are less than 100 days into Pai’s chairmanship and two things have become clear: He’s captured by the industries he’s supposed to watchdog and is all too willing to shirk his duty to make communications services available to all people,” said Free Press Deputy Director and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González. “Today he says he cares about Net Neutrality in one breath and then spells out a plan to destroy it in the next. Chairman Pai is a phony and he is fooling no one, particularly people of color. We have used the internet to organize, hold power accountable and tell our own stories. We will fight Pai at every step as he enables authoritarianism in the White House by taking away free expression and dissenting voices on the web.”

"An internet protected by Title II Net Neutrality gives those without a seat at the table an equal voice in decisions about the issues that matter most to them,” said Center for Media Justice Executive Director Malkia Cyril. “That’s why communities of color have so much to lose if Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, has his way. Net Neutrality doesn’t only protect opportunity for struggling families; it preserves our right to organize in a digital age. The internet, protected by the current Net Neutrality rules, has enabled the mothers of children killed by police to demand an end to police violence; it has enabled undocumented students to fight for changes to our broken immigration system. It's provided the opportunity for new Black voices in the arts to bypass Hollywood gatekeepers. It has given me comfort as I care for my ailing spouse. The only solution that protects the digital voice and rights of communities of color is vigorous enforcement of the rules we fought for and were passed by the FCC two years ago. That’s what we and our partners in the Media Action Grassroots Network will continue to demand. There’s too much at stake to urge anything less."

“The internet has long been a key part of creative and civic life for immigrant communities like ours,” said 18 Million Rising Executive Director Cayden Mak. “Like many young Asian Americans, the internet was the first place I connected with other Asian Americans, and throughout my life it has been a critical connection to family across the globe — it’s a crucial part of how I learned about who I am and why I matter. Today the free and open internet helps us distribute our own music, movies and art depicting our experiences; educate and organize our people; and link geographically dispersed ethnic communities across the United States. Gutting Net Neutrality protections fundamentally threatens the way that Asian American communities live, learn and thrive.”

Voices for Internet Freedom is a national organizing project led by the Center for Media Justice, Free Press, Color Of Change and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.