New Rules Exclude Key Way Blacks Get Online

We asked ColorOfChange's James Rucker to explain why blacks and Hispanics who blog or use smartphones should pay attention to the results of a vote by the FCC earlier this week.

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Three, there's the issue of reclassification [of broadband as a telecommunications service], so the FCC could treat broadband just like they do telephone service, where you could have the providers pay into a fund that makes broadband affordable for low-income consumers. [The FCC has] not indicated that they're interested in giving themselves the authority to do that.

So from our perspective, it's a loss for our communities. We're starting down the path of what we saw with broadcast radio, with cable television: where essentially, marginalized voices from communities that already have a hard time communicating in their own voices, politically organizing -- those communities are more than likely destined to be second-class players when it comes to the Internet.

TR: So the FCC is calling the rules it voted on "net neutrality," but actually they're not?

JR: Yep. What [the rules] don't prevent is paid prioritization -- they're allowing tiering. And they're not protecting wireless. Those are two essential qualities of any real net neutrality rules, and [both] are absent. So it's dressed up; it makes me think of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" statement, when you declare something is over when in fact it is not.

TR: What's next?

JR: From my perspective, there's the question of whether or not there's room for lawsuits. One concern is that black and brown people, because of our propensity to use wireless, won't be protected by the net neutrality rules. There are some legal questions about whether there's some remedy there.

We also want to educate the public about what's at stake, to create a level of public accountability, so that when AT&T or Verizon or Comcast actually does something that is either bad [for] wireless or is actually tiering on the Internet, that [it knows] there's a PR price to pay.

Sheryl Huggins Salomon is deputy editor of The Root.

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Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.

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