Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition Thanks Commissioner Mignon Clyburn For Her Tireless Commitment to Serving Poor People and People of Color

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Hannah Berkman




Washington, D.C. – Today, Mignon Clyburn announced that she is stepping down from her nine-year tenure as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As the first African-American woman to serve as an FCC Commissioner, Clyburn has been the agency’s most passionate and tireless advocate for low-income communities and people of color.

Jessica J. González, deputy director and senior counsel at Free Press, said, “FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will go down in history as one of the finest public servants to have ever served at the FCC. Throughout her tenure, we knew that someone inside the FCC was listening to poor people and people of color and advocating for our communications rights. She has been a courageous warrior for justice. She has stood up to rich and powerful Washington insiders to promote affordable internet access, and for Net Neutrality, so that people of color can tell our own stories in our words on the internet without interference from internet service providers. She has been the foremost champion for just and reasonable prison phone rates. She is a role model for people everywhere, and to me personally. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart for showing us what tenacious leadership looks like.”

Former President Barack Obama nominated Clyburn in April 2009 to become the first African-American woman to serve as Commissioner in the 83-year history of the FCC. Three months later, Clyburn was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to a full five-year term and began a second five-year term in January 2013. In May of 2013, Commissioner Clyburn’s leadership on the FCC was once again recognized by President Obama when he designated her to serve as acting chairwoman of the FCC – a position she held for five months.

At the FCC, Commissioner Clyburn has forged a legacy as a defender of the public interest and a champion for low-income communities, people with disabilities and people of color. Clyburn is well known for leading efforts to limit the exorbitant costs the families of incarcerated people face when making telephone calls to their loved ones. In 2016, Clyburn led the FCC’s efforts to include broadband access under the low-income subsidy program Lifeline, and she has also been a fierce advocate for digital health services. In 2015, Commissioner Clyburn joined her fellow Democratic commissioners in voting to adopt the FCC Open Internet Order, the regulation which protects net neutrality. Since 2017, Commissioner Clyburn’s fight for an open Internet has been in full gear as she has led efforts in opposition to the Trump Administration’s elimination of net neutrality.

Malkia Cyril, Executive Director and co-founder of the Center for Media Justice had this to say in regard to her departure, "For almost a decade, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has stood with us to fight for unheard voices. She fought for an open Internet through Title II net neutrality. She fought for the families of incarcerated people and demanded fairness from predatory phone companies; she fought for the poor, voting for a Lifeline program that gave low income people access to a modern communications system. Time and time again, as a Commissioner and as the first and only Black Woman Chair of the FCC, Mignon Clyburn has come to where we live to hear our voices and see through our eyes. From residents of Skid Row in Los Angeles to families demanding community ownership over their internet service, Commissioner Clyburn listened to the stories of everyday people. During a time of peak corporate influence in our government, Commissioner Clyburn stood apart as a leader willing to defend the rights of people of color and America’s poorest residents. We cannot thank Commissioner Clyburn enough for her service. While her time as an FCC Commissioner may be over, her influence in the fight to extend communications access to all lives on and on.”

For the past 9-years, Voices for Internet Freedom and a litany of organizations have relied on Commissioner Clyburn in the fight to bring equality and justice for those often ignored and overlooked. Her knowledge and expertise of communications issues and the compassion she has for the disenfranchised has served as a guide and inspiration for all. As we are in the midst of many important battles with the FCC, we will greatly miss the ally we have in Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

“Commissioner Clyburn is a tremendous public servant and a pioneer in the telecommunications sector as the first woman and first Black woman to serve as an FCC commissioner, as well as the first woman to serve as the commission’s acting chairperson. As Commissioner Clyburn’s career has taken her to the highest levels of our government, she has remained fiercely committed to Black folks and low-income communities. A leader in the fight for net neutrality, the Lifeline program and prison phone justice, she has stayed deeply connected to our communities, often participating in events such as Color Of Change’s forum for Black net neutrality activists in Atlanta last year." Said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color Of Change. "History will remember that in the face of so many willing to sell out basic values of fairness and equity, Commissioner Clyburn stood strong and never forgot the communities often under attack by special interests willing to cut them out of the economies and technologies of the future. When the story is written of the champions who fought to protect open communication and as a result a fairer democracy, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s name will be in bold print. We will miss her powerful leadership at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but we know that she will continue to be a champion for our communities.”

The respect and admiration for Commissioner Clyburn was shared by Carmen Scurato, vice president of policy and general counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, who said, “FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been a steadfast and constant champion for Latinos and people of color during her tenure at the Commission. She worked tireless to amplify the voices of real people on the wrong side of the digital divide that are disconnected and underserved by our modern communications networks. Commissioner Clyburn has been the voice for the vulnerable, marginalized and downtrodden communities which too often are ignored, forgotten or relegated to the sidelines. She will be remembered as a Commissioner who empowered and enabled communities of color and fought tirelessly to advocate for access to modern communications as a civil rights issues. Although we will greatly miss Commissioner Clyburn’s presence at the FCC, we know that she will never stop fighting for our rights to access to modern communications.”

Cayden Mak, Executive Director of 18MillionRising.org, has this to say about Commissioner Clyburn’s legacy and impact: “It is unusual for an appointed public servant to be a strong champion for communities of color. It is even more unusual for a public servant to be as unfaltering in their conviction as Commissioner Clyburn. Her energy, empathy, and conviction are apparent not just through the battles she’s fought but also the way that she has fought them. Her leadership formed a critical link between everyday people and the FCC throughout her tenure, protecting net neutrality, the families of incarcerated people, and low-income community members over the past decade. Thank you, Commissioner Clyburn, for being such a generous and courageous voice for the people.”

Voices for Internet Freedom is a coalition fighting for the digital rights of communities of color.