More than a quarter of blacks live below the poverty line, and mobile access is critical to families who need phone and Internet access to apply for jobs and stay connected to critical social services. Even a $25 increase in monthly phone bills, which would have been likely with the merger, could mean choosing between eating, paying electricity or paying for a phone.
While blocking the merger is a good step in protecting Internet access, the fight to keep the Internet a level playing field has only begun and needs the black community’s continued support.
Big telecom and cable companies want to fundamentally change the way the Internet works and our access to it so they can make millions by acting as gatekeepers over what you see and do online. If these companies succeed, a few major corporations will control which voices are heard most easily, and it will be much harder for grassroots groups, individuals, independent media outlets and small businesses to compete with large corporations and well-funded special interests.
When members of ColorOfChange.org first got involved in trying to stop the merger, we heard from most of the establishment that the merger was a done deal because corporations were the ones with the power. The more than 50,000 ColorOfChange.org members who signed a petition to the FCC, and more than 40,000 members who asked their Congress members to oppose the merger, came together to prove the establishment wrong. We need to bring this same tenacity to the fight to protect an open Internet.
The black community has the most effective and powerful history of organizing and activism of any segment of the American population. Our victories in gaining freedoms, rights and respect — which have served as models for the activism of other marginalized communities — have always been dependent on our ability to use the latest technology to share information and communicate with one another.
Open access to the Internet is our modern-day WATS line — our link toone another that needs to be unfiltered and uncorrupted by corporate interests in order to serve the needs of the black community. Like the leaders of the civil rights movement, we are called upon to protect affordable, reliable and open communications to ensure that our voices are heard.
Rashad Robinson is executive director of ColorOfChange.org. With more than 800,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is an online black political organization. He can be found here on Twitter.