The Irony of the Net Neutrality Debate

Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski held a hearing to introduce a new set of rules intended to preserve the free and open internet and to start a public discourse regarding whether or not they will be formally adopted.  To be clear, this post is not meant to support or oppose the rules themselves; rather, to comment on the nature of the discourse in its inception stages.

As dialogue surrounding FCC regulations on net neutrality becomes an issue with increasing visibility, so does the importance for each voice to be heard.  Like America, the Internet was created "for the people, by the people," so why would anyone try to silence the people?

By undermining the voices of eminent minority groups like the NAACP and the NCLR, Art Brodsky, the Communications Director at Public Knowledge (PK) is doing just that.  A comment on his blog post suggested that

"...the saddest part of the whole affair to date is the role of groups representing minority populations. For whatever reason - whether they believe what the Big Telecom companies tell them or not - many organizations seem to land on policies that hurt their constituencies and fall into ludicrous traps one suspects are not of their making."

His sentiment implies that well-respected organizations known for their century long fight for equal rights may be duped into a "trap" based on their so-called loyalty to "Big Telecom companies."  At worst, Mr. Brodsky is trying to silence strong civil rights organizations.  At best, his condescending commentary intends to devalue their intentions, research, and history.

After Mr. Brodsky posted his comments last week, Sylvia Aguilera, Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) responded in a letter by demanding that PK "immediately repudiate the damaging statements."   Now, PK has linked the minority groups' positioning to loyalty based on monetary contributions - effectively suggesting that they are being bribed into taking their stance.  It would be naïve to think that operations of this sort never happen, but it is presumptuous and demeaning to suggest that money is the only factor on which their stance is based.

NDN has a history of partnering with organizations such as the NAACP and NCLR on a variety of issues, including the recent debate on the Vitter-Bennett amendment regarding the census.  Therefore, we can attest to their sincerity and leadership in advocating for their respective communities' interests.

For someone that advocates an open source platform as Mr. Brodsky claims to by supporting net neutrality, it seems ironic that he would try to silence the developing discourse on this topic.