Net Neutrality and Public Utility: Do Latinos Really Oppose Internet Regulation?
By Mari D. González
At its origins, the Internet was perceived and used mainly for information purposes. We derived the name "information age" from it. The Internet has since evolved into many things and some of those are essential to our daily lives such as communicating with the world—staying in touch with loved ones, finding employment, running a business, helping our kids with their homework, and paying our bills.
If a survey of well informed Latinos and African Americans were conducted, they would likely skew with the general population, not understand the intricacies of the corporate Internet issues and yet understand how we, the users, have come to depend on it. And, thus these communities would agree that new policy needs to be in place to classify it appropriately.
An article at Rollcall.com argues that minorities oppose Internet regulation because if it was regulated, investment will decrease and Internet costs will increase. Thus, Internet will become even more inaccessible to low-income Latino families. This argument has been debunked recently. According to last month's article by Jesse Torres in the Huffingtonpost, "Verizon's CEO has admitted to its investors that strong Net Neutrality rules treating ISPs as common carriers would not hurt investment."
Torres also notes that some civil rights organizations also oppose strong and enforceable Net Neutrality rules because they enjoy a close relationship with the major phone and cable companies including some that "receive significant financial donations from industry players like Comcast." So how are Latino consumers to make a decision whether pro or con?
What would drive cost is the increasing market share companies, such as Comcast, have accrued and the power that comes with less competition—more control over content and higher data costs. Even more alarming is the fact that Comcast will be able to reach 91% of Latino market. Presente.org, an online advocacy group emphasizes that with such control over the Hispanic market, Spanish-language content developed by Latinos will be at minimum. Comcast will have total control and will get to decide the content.
The principle of Net Neutrality is that Internet service providers "should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites." Why would Latinos, or any advocacy group, disagree with Net Neutrality when their online activism has become their true voice?
A hotly debated point at the heart of Net Neutrality is protecting the Internet by classifying major providers as common carriers. First, we need to understand what common carriers are and to separate that from the concept of government regulation, which many people may perceive as the government regulating our online content. Government regulation of common carriers intends to regulate the Internet Service Provider companies to ensure equity in access to the public.
If we want Latinos to enter the Net Neutrality debate and speak for themselves, whether pro or con, we need to ensure they are able to access the Internet first and foremost. A vital step is to support affordable Internet for all low-income families so their voices are heard and they can participate in the Internet economy. The InternetForAllNow campaign, sponsored by California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) seeks to ensure affordable Internet which Net Neutrality, while important, will not ensure. You can demand affordable Internet for all now by taking action. You can also text InternetForAll to 52886 or InternetParaTodos to 52886.
* "Common carriage prohibits the owner of a network, that holds itself out to all-comers, from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data (except for legitimate network management purposes such as easing congestion or blocking spam)."
About the Author:
Mari D. González is a Cross-cultural Communication Consultant who specializes in Latino/Hispanic culture. She received a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations (MAIR) from the University of the Pacific. Her graduate school research focused on the junction between digital marketing and the emerging bilingual, second-generation Latino/Hispanic ethnic identity, acculturation, and linguistic preferences. She teaches Social Media Communications at UC Berkeley Extension. Mari can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Ixmati to learn more.