Diverse Support for Open Internet

Earlier this week, the Alliance for Digital Equality (ADE) released a letter in response to questions recently posed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The questions, which relate to net neutrality and limited access to specialized services, seem to indicate the FCC is still considering regulations that most agree will have damaging consequences for the future of the Internet. Thankfully ADE is not the only voice of reason on this issue. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), a diverse coalition of minority and technology groups, formally submitted comments to the FCC Tuesday. The 24 national organizations led by MMTC are strongly supportive of an open Internet and are committed to improving lives and helping America work towards universal Internet access. This support is critical now more than ever as fringe groups inside the Beltway are attempting to push their own agenda, an agenda that is out of step with a struggling main street America.

Similar to MMTC, ADE recognizes that moving forward with reclassification, outdated and burdensome government rules, carries the risk of unintended negative consequences. This move will jeopardize investment in broadband infrastructure and technology, but more importantly it will hinder job growth in communities with the greatest need. Given our concerns, ADE has been speaking on this issue for some time and continues to urge policymakers to consider the negative effects of greater regulation, especially in the current economic climate. Our goal should remain creating jobs and encouraging the private investment necessary to provide more Americans with access to affordable broadband technology - these are the things that would make a difference in many of our communities right now. Instead, the constant threat of FCC action is deterring valuable investments from the private sector and delaying opportunity for meaningful progress.

ADE, along with MMTC and their partners, is concerned with potential government overreach in the wireless space. This area of contention is of particular interest due to the increased use of wireless technologies in minority communities in the last few years. Thanks to wireless devices more low income families can access the resources of the Internet without the use of a home computer and minority Americans are leading the country in using wireless devices to access the Internet. This progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to do on the road toward recovery. On the issue of wireless, I hope our policymakers will tread cautiously as we must not derail the astounding progress made by imposing antiquated regulations and must protect the tremendous opportunity that exists in this space.

An alternative path forward - and the path that we at ADE strongly support - is action from Congress. Not long ago California Congressman Henry Waxman proposed a common sense and balanced approach to Internet policy. While his legislation has stalled for the time being, his efforts demonstrate a willingness within Congress to take action. When recently speaking on net neutrality, Congressman Waxman said he would "not close the door on moving legislation this Congress," also noting that "cooler heads may prevail after the elections." This statement is an optimistic sign, especially as some groups outside the mainstream continue to lobby for stringent regulations without the support of the public or our elected officials.

Beyond the politics, partisanship and power struggles that exist in Washington today, I do believe we can reach an agreement that will benefit communities that all too often have no voice in the debate. ADE strives to be that voice. Our organization consistently talks about the importance of closing the digital divide, the idea that businesses, policymakers and the public should work to close the gap between those with access to technology and those without. However, this is only possible if the economy is strengthened and the private sector is innovating and investing in tomorrow. ADE will continue to converse and exchange ideas on Internet policy because the issue is so deeply connected to the future of America's underserved communities. When all is said and done, we need policies that support individuals trying to make a better life through information and technology. Our leaders must reject the policy prescriptions offered by uncompromising factions in Washington that don't understand the need for jobs, investment and affordable Internet that will benefit the average American.

Julius H. Hollis is the CEO of the Alliance for Digital Equality, a non-profit organization that receives funding from a wide array of organizations including those from the telecommunications, energy and entertainment sectors.