NAACP Fought Net Neutrality Until Last Week, Now Suddenly Supports The Idea

from the shifting-winds dept

For years now we’ve pointed out how one of the telecom industry’s sleazier lobbying tricks involves paying minority groups to parrot awful tech policy positions. That’s why you’ll often see groups like the “Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership” support competition-killing mergers or oppose consumer-centric policies like more cable box competition or increased wireless competition. This quid pro quo is never put into writing, so when these groups are asked why they’re supporting policies that undermine their constituents, they can deny it with a wave of breathless indignation.

But this tactic remains very real, and very harmful all the same. It played a huge role in ginning up bogus support for the attack on net neutrality. AT&T and Comcast have co-opted countless minority groups in this fashion, with a lot of it coordinated through a telecom-funded organization dubbed the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council (MMTC). In short: if you want to keep the funding flowing, it’s expected that you’ll parrot telecom industry policies, even if they harm your constituents. This has been a problem for years that nobody much likes to talk about.

The NAACP has consistently been part of this problem, opposing real net neutrality protections after receiving funding from AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. The group signed off on letters opposing tough FCC rules both (pdf) times (pdf) they were proposed, often mirroring the incumbent ISP claim that tougher net neutrality rules would hamstring ISP efforts to expand broadband availability into poor communities (utterly false). In other FCC filings (pdf), both the MMTC and NAACP claimed that real neutrality would damage the “fragile state of minority engagement in the digital ecosystem.”

But now that the FCC’s attack on net neutrality is getting media attention due to a massive public backlash, the NAACP has issued a statement proclaiming that the group is “deeply disappointed” with the FCC’s decision to repeal rules. Now that the battle is making headlines, the NAACP is claiming that the removal of rules it fought against strips away “critical safeguards for ensuring an accessible internet”:

?The internet fuels economic opportunity, civic engagement, and social action. It allows us to communicate instantly and effectively, and, in recent years, it has facilitated innovative, impactful social justice action,? said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “Throughout our 108-year history, the NAACP has continually opposed discrimination and fought for justice and equal opportunity for all. We see the fight for net neutrality as an extension of that mission. The NAACP is staunchly opposed to any attempt to censor or manipulate information on the internet, especially if it creates a barrier to entry for people of color.”

That’s…not what you’ve been saying in FCC filings for the last several years. The NAACP apparently hoped that nobody would notice it had been fighting against real net neutrality — right up until the subject began making headlines in the wake of the repeal. Those familiar with the NAACP’s…inconsistency on this subject noticed anyway:

Again, this is all incredibly harmful to the individuals these organizations are supposed to be protecting. “Broadband redlining” has become a bigger problem than ever as the one-two punch of lax regulatory oversight and limited competition results in large ISPs ignoring low income and minority areas for next-gen broadband upgrades. It should go without saying by now that the net neutrality rules the NAACP didn’t want protected everyone from uncompetitive market abuses and the stifling of independent and diversity-oriented media outlets by deep-pocketed incumbents.

It seems like at some point, NAACP constituents and donors not named AT&T, Verizon and Comcast would notice that the group has been selling them out for years on the subject of net neutrality.

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Comments on “NAACP Fought Net Neutrality Until Last Week, Now Suddenly Supports The Idea”

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OldMugwump (profile) says:

When was the last time the NAACP did anything useful?

I’m no expert on the NAACP, but I haven’t heard of them doing much since the civil rights era.

All organizations ultimately are run for the benefit of those who run the organization.

When an org is new, those who run it are often full of enthusiasm for the mission, and work hard to accomplish the stated goals.

But over time, the easy goals get accomplished, the remaining ones are harder, and the initially enthusiastic leaders move on to other things, or retire. New people come in, who tend to be more concerned about their own salaries and perks, and wave the old flag to raise money and get resources. But the fire is cold.

Repeat that for a couple of cycles, and you have the shell of an organization that exists mainly to support the officers who run the org. At that point they’re easy to buy off – as happened here.

Anybody remember the March of Dimes? They wanted to cure polio. Then the *worst possible thing* happened – a vaccine came along. The March of Dimes had to find a new disease, and quick. Wisely, they picked something they could be sure wouldn’t be cured for a long, long time – birth defects. Jobs saved!

(As Mel Brooks said in Blazing Saddles, “We’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”)

Nothing special about NAACP – this happens to all orgs, sooner or later. Just the nature of the beast.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: When was the last time the NAACP did anything useful?

This thread title could very well be construed as a racist statement if made by someone who knows the real history of the NAACP, which was, for most of its history, essentially a Jewish organization at its core, with a facade of Colored People facing the cameras. The “old” civil rights movement was basically created, funded, organized, strategized, and executed by Jews – not Blacks – a material fact that until fairly recently was oddly excluded by news reports on the movement. Now that civil rights organizations are to a greater degree based on organic, grass-roots support (with considerably less Jewish presence behind the scenes) it’s interesting to watch people complain about how things have degraded as (perhaps unbeknownst to them) the real Colored People are now finally running the shop.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We have the astroturf groups, who don’t really exist, representing different minorities yet take positions that benefit companies harming those same groups.

If they are willing to sell their support to the highest bidder, when the outcome hurts your supporters, perhaps its time for you to go.

Perhaps we need to move away from letting “groups” be the be all end all.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Astroturfing as you call it is popular on both sides of almost every discussion. It also comes in plenty of different flavors, not just made up community groups.

Look, Mike started the Copia institute. Let’s be fair here, there is no institution, just another plaque next to the mailbox at the Floor64 offices. The requirement to go from “Mike Masnick from Techdirt” to “Mike Masnick from the Copia Institute” appears to be registering a domain and perhaps a DBA. So when Mike sends out one thing in his own name, one thing as Techdirt, and then releases a study or brief from Copia, he has taken three bites at the apple.

You see it most strongly in politics with PACs and Super PACs which are often just name fronts for wealthy people to force their opinions on others. It also gives candidates the ability to have hot button issues pushed without having to do it themselves. It gives them a certain air gap between themselves and a divisive issue.

Groups like the NAACP are in theory driven by issues, but in reality driven by the noisy 1% of their members and the people actually writing the checks. When the tone of one or the other changes, generally groups like this change sides.

Now, for what it’s worth, the NAACP may in fact just be getting in line behind the Comcast “we need net neutrality” move. They stake out a position just past Comcast, and then boom, you can “negotiate” in public down to something everyone likes – everyone who is on the same side.

Then Copia institute can issue an Amicus brief to the courts in regards to NN, which will be considered and ignored in due course!

MyNameHere (profile) says:

ISPs (and pretty much everyone else) ignores poverty stricken or low income areas because (obviously) there is little or no income to be had in providing service. In a world of a totally free market, they go where they can get paid, and avoid where they cannot.

Forcing them into those areas isn’t a good solution either. The costs associated with it end up being borne by the middle class, who pay more for their service because the ISP has to hire more people to provide service that often goes unpaid.

Want to get the companies lining up at the doors to offer service? Start “net stamps”, a program that provides money for under privileged (what a nice way to say poor) to obtain internet service. Then the ISPs will gladly show up knowing that they will get paid (most of the time).

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Forcing them into those areas isn’t a good solution either.”

But it is. We have a very broad landline and mobile coverage here because the govt ‘auctions’ areas of a high profitable one paired with something ranging from low profits to loss inducing areas. And guess what, it works! Whenever there are new auctions the companies fight tooth and nail for the pairs.

Glenn says:

And on a larger scale… isn’t the govt. itself supposed to be protecting us from this sort of ISP behavior? Isn’t that part of why the FCC exists in the first place? Isn’t that what we pay Congress and the president *trillions of dollars* to do (as opposed to giving “poor little” billionaires huge tax breaks)? (Well, they’ll find out in the next election what we want.)

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