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Policy

Black Elected Officials Question Net Neutrality Proposal

11/11/2009 11:00 AM Eastern

Joining the calls for less divisive rhetoric on network neutrality are the heads of various organizations representing black elected officials, though they used some strong language themselves in calling for continued questioning of the FCC's proposed network neutrality rulemaking.

In a letter to David Honig, general counsel of the Broadband Opportunity Coalition, the officials gave the coalition, which includes the League of United Latin American Citizens and La Raza, props for questioning the impact of network neutrality rules on broadband deployment and adoption.

"We write to applaud your recent letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging that the agency focus on increasing broadband adoption and expanding broadband network capacity," they wrote, according to a copy of the letter supplied to B&C.

"Unfortunately, the FCC's broadband conversation, still in its early stages, has been infected by some profoundly disturbing comments attacking both federal officials and civil rights organizations," the heads of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, The National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and the National Association of Black County Officials wrote Honig.

"The organizations making these statements, have repeatedly sought to impugn the integrity, independence and intelligence of members of the Congressional Black Caucus and leaders of the civil rights community who have made adoption and expanded network capacity their highest priorities," they said.

The Broadband Coalition had told the FCC's chairman in their own letter that they were very concerned that "despite your very best intentions, some aspects of net neutrality might not turn out to be neutral as applied to our constituencies."

Some fans of network neutrality countered that the groups were under the influence of cable and telco operators, leading to some heated exchanges, calls for apologies, and charges of racism and paternalism.

"In publicly attacking several of the nation's leading civil rights organizations, one organization recently published a statement that minorities - blacks, Hispanics and even Asians' are supporting points of view that hurt the people they claim to represent. Other organizations have regularly peddled these and other offensive claims to the news media and public via Web posting," wrote the officials.

They branded the attackers digital elites who wanted high-speed broadband for their personal enjoyment. "Many feel that these organizations are pushing a regulatory perspective that would regressively shift the costs of bandwidth onto middle- and low-income consumers," they said. "We urge you to ignore the destructive racial rhetoric peddled by elite digital organizations..."

The FCC has launched a rulemaking proposal to codify and expand its Internet openness guidelines. In addition, it is separately preparing a national broadband plan to Congress. A central conversation is how much bandwidth and speed will be necessary to deal with the growing number of bandwidth-heavy applications and services for everything from distance learning to telemedicine that the commission has to take into account.

September