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:
NAACP opposed net neutrality under Obama, supported repeal of net neutrality Title II rules as recently as January of this year, but now reverses its position and backs net neutrality. https://t.co/CbqBoocHdh
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 15, 2017
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.