Congresswoman Waters: FCC net neutrality rules could especially harm people of color

by Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Washington, D.C. – While I commend the FCC for approving network neutrality rules that prohibit broadband providers from blocking consumer access to legal web content, I am very concerned that the rules do not go far enough to honor the principles of net neutrality as previously articulated by this administration and FCC. Although the new rules bar fixed broadband internet providers from “unreasonable discrimination” against web traffic, they exempt mobile broadband providers – leaving millions without critical consumer protections and leading to a fractured Internet.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote the FCC, supporting its efforts to establish sensible guidelines to ensure that the Internet remains an open and vibrant platform for creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, in the year since the commission set an agenda to adopt net neutrality rules, confusion and misinformation have overshadowed its original intent.

I am concerned that the rules adopted Dec. 21 are insufficient and harmful to many American consumers, reflecting immense pressure on the FCC from the telecommunications industry and Congressional Republicans, who by and large oppose any open Internet policies,.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s Mobile Access 2010 report, “Minority Americans lead the way when it comes to mobile access – especially mobile access using handheld devices,” and currently “two-thirds of African-Americans and [English-speaking] Latinos are wireless internet users.” Another study from Pew and Nielsen indicates that many low wealth individuals and people of color use their cell phones as their only point of Internet access, including 18 percent of African Americans, 16 percent of English-speaking Latinos and 17 percent of people earning under $30,000 per year.

The rules approved by the FCC would not protect these communities if a wireless broadband service provider decides to block any application or service that is not a voice/video communications service. In effect, consumers of color, who are more dependent on wireless broadband to access the Internet, would have less governmental protection than Americans who can afford both wired and wireless connections.

Policies and decisions made now will influence significantly the future media landscape of our country. Therefore, I strongly urge the FCC to reconsider all the facts and make the Internet and other media services fair for everyone as it addresses not only net neutrality but also the impending merger of Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal.

Contact Congresswoman Maxine Waters at 2344 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, phone (202) 225-2201, fax (202) 225-7854, website www.house.gov/waters.