Just getting word about the FCC being defeated in court against Comcast over the issue of Net Neutrality. The courts ruled that the FCC has no authority to enforce Net Neutrality principles. This now opens the doors for any of the large telecoms like AT&T and Verizon who have spent millions of dollars lobbying politicians, paying off traditional Civil Rights groups for their silence or advocacy and hand picking ‘pundits to murky the issue by setting up all sorts of distracting debates, to start regulating content. In short, the doors are now open for these telecoms to create toll lanes on the web where the more you pay the faster and more accessible your website, home page etc, to the masses. Here’s the actual decision http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/201004/08-1291-1238302.pdf
The Internet was attractive to so many of us because it leveled the playing field. It allowed the little guy with a good idea to have voice right alongside the mediocre, slow-moving big guy with lot so f money. The net allowed a lot of folks to come up. The principles around Net Neutrality allowed a small outfit like Pandora to smash on the staleness of a Clear Channel. It allowed scores of Indy artists who we got to enjoy at last week’s Paid Dues concert in LA to be just as relevant and accessible as the corporate backed auto-tune drones that made so many of us thankful we could escape via the internet.
The principles of Net Neutrality have allowed scores of grassroots organizations to put up good fights and organize effectively. One example, is Basta Dobbs, the campaign against former CNN host Lou Dobbs that saw 32 cities simultaneously hold press conferences demanding his removal from the airwaves because of his constant racialization of immigrant communities. Organizers acknowledged that a lot of their success was owed to their ability to reach the masses online. Today there is a current campaign against CBS and comedian Adam Coralla making disparaging remarks against Filipinos got legs thanks to online efforts and the principles governing Net Neutrality.
Awareness around death penalty cases like the one involving Troy Davis owe much success to the internet spreading. The same with the plight of the Jena 6. Imagine if the students protesting election corruption in Iran were prevented from reaching us here in the US because Comcast or AT&T decided to restrict content? many of us got to know and support their plight because Net Neutrality was in tact. The current student protests here in the US around tuition hikes became known to many thanks to online organizing efforts. There’s a long list of how the little guy was able to make some headway against money, power, position and corporate privilege, thanks to the internet and the Net Neutrality allowing us to reach the masses.
Today’s ruling allowing Comcast and other telecoms to get around Net Neutrality is bad news on a number of levels. First, it again underscores the power of judges and why we must pay attention in each election to make sure who is in position to appoint and who is actually running to sit on a bench. In this case these were appointed judges. Not sure of their backgrounds as of yet. But we do know the last few unfavorable police rulings like Sean Bell’s killers being acquitted came at the hands of a Bush appointed judge. What were finding is that as elected officials or in this case the FCC do the people’s bidding against the interest of corporations, these companies are running off to the courts which have been stacked over the past 8 years and getting favorable rulings. We can dwell deeper into judgeships on another day.
Second, is that we go through Congress to craft a law specifically protecting Net Neutrality or to grant the FCC authority to regulate and oversee this provision. The challenge is thanks to intense lobby efforts by the telecoms we may have huge problem. For years, the telecoms have tried everything they could to get things deregulated so they could rush in and start setting up shop. In previous attempts to allow Congress to grant the FCC such powers to govern Net Neutrality, Congress was stifled by the telecoms…
AT&T and their lobbying efforts have been a bit more insidious, with them taking advantage of the technological ignorance of many, they’ve been able to exploit the economic hardships experienced in many poor Black and Brown communities by showing up with money in hand to sponsor events, people and needy politicians in exchange for silence or outright advocacy by newly minted handpicked, artificial experts. In other words folks who have been brought off and are now in the pocket stomping for the telecoms. One keen example of this is former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin as outlined in this report Shirley Franklin fronting for the Big Telecoms . The angle Franklin and others of her ilk take around the buzz word ‘digital divide’, making it seem like that if we demand the telecoms back off from this Net Neutrality fight they in turn would not continue to help provide access to marginalized communities.
This is akin to me showing up at a conference on drug sentencing talking about in order for us to have this discussion we must address the issue of domestic violence. In other words they have very little to do with each other unless we wanna get creative and draw colorful lines to connect the dots as directed by the telecoms or we have a personal financial or political and now increasingly social stake in this. Some of these big time telecoms have enticed folks by working behind the scenes and elevating their profile of their hand pick pundits making sure they get to be on talk shows or start being seen prominently in the blogasphere.
What’s most frustrating with todays ruling is that after writing, explaining and doing radio shows on this important topic for more than 5 years there are many within this Hip Hop / urban community who I routinely engage who seem to know more about Ice Cube’s latest dis than they do about the Internet’s governing principles that allowed them to get the information in the first place.
For example, this past weekend in Washington DC there was a Hip Hop Bloggers conference and from what I saw Net Neutrality was mentioned only once and only by someone from the Future of Music Coalition which has been fighting to preserve it. While many of my peers waxed poetic about how they garnered fame and followers at a date and time when this important principle was at stake, it was sad NOT to see this as a front a center issue. The irony here is that many of us know a Dallas Penn, Okayplayer or 2 Dope Boyz more than we know the news reporters working the local beat at a corporate owned newspaper. We know AllHipHop or HipHopDx better than we know the NY Times or Washington Post..
As I long explained, non corporate self-styled journalist, Hip Hop heads, urban youth and snarky college kids gaining a foothold to the masses without going through a high-priced, media gate-keeper was problematic. Many of us laughed at and took glee over hearing how the local papers were unfolding and how local radio stations were crumbling. We looked at our Iphones, Ipads and other gadgets and arrogantly proclaimed we were the new kings and queens on the block. We did that while ignoring two basic facts which is 1) power concedes nothing without a vicious fight and many of us were blogging but not fighting. We weren’t fighting by educating ourselves on this issue and we weren’t educating our readers on the importance of preserving the new media arenas that they come to love and depend on while escaping the doldrums and oppressive nature of traditional outlets. Voice was given to the Voiceless on the Internet and Net Neutrality was and has been the main pillar why.
Second, many of us have long shunned politics. It’s an ugly business. It’s corrupt. It’s far from fair. Many of you have had the privilege to get on an unimpeded internet and share all sorts of theories and perspectives on why politics should be avoided. We know about the Obama Deception movie. We know about the Bildenberg group, We know about Illuminati etc. All of these perspectives and many more have been freely delivered to the masses of people because of Net Neutrality. However, it’s this corrupt political arena where rules are made and policy shaped. As I remind people daily, many of us live in communities, where street politics, workplace politics are just as ugly yet we take time to know and understand them. We learn when we can wear red and blue. We learn what side we can tip our cap. We learn who is backbiter, ass kisser and saboteur in the office. Engaging politics is not beyond us. But to avoid the politics around something we didn’t build and essentially don’t own in terms of infrastructure, but use everyday is as foolish as going to a neighborhood in LA and not know ‘what time it is’..
When it comes to Net Neutrality, I realize it’s a boring, complex issue. There is no easy soundbite that adequately explains it, but some of the most important things impacting our lives can’t be explained in a tweet or a Facebook status update. Us being a headline news society will be the demise of us if we’re not careful. We should never trade away aor allow basic principles to be removed even if we had a work around or alternatives. Somebody told me they wasn’t tripping off the ruling cause they had enough money to sustain themselves and they knew other work-arounds. That shortsighted thinking of ‘I got mine you better get yours’ is what has wrecked havoc on far too many of us… Hell I could call it a day and not trip my damn self.. I’m good on a number of levels as well. In fact maybe this latest ruling might eliminate a bunch of people and I can be one of the few destination places free of technological impediments. It could be all good until I’m the one being smashed on.
It’s kinda like the Fox News mouthpiece Glen Beck who uses a platform granted by his employer Rupert Murdoch to talk crazy, mislead people and basically try to blow up the spot around Net Neutrality. It’s easy for him be dismissive and hostile, because he’s one of the few privileged folks in the world who has a daily TV talk show. He works for a powerful media mogul who spent the past two or three years buying up all sorts of newspapers and could stand to benefit handsomely if all these ‘pesky’ blogs and upstart news sites suddenly disappeared or simply weren’t able to be as accessible on line as his offerings.
So what should we be doing? For starters call your Congressperson and tell them you want Net Neutrality. the same way you want clean water coming out your tap. You can stay up on some of this by checking out my website daveyd.com. You can also go to the Center for Media Justice . You can also check out Kurthanson.com, FreePress.org and Future of Music Coalition