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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Powerful Testimony Abounds at Future of the Internet Hearing Supporting Net Neutrality and Broadband Access


Click for photo album

This is a report by Mary Ellen Broderick.

On Tuesday night, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, as well as other distinguished speakers, provided in-depth explanations of the importance of net neutrality and expanded access to broadband at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The hall was almost three-quarters full, the setting was dramatic and the graphic behind the speakers made the events message loud and clear: “SAVE THE INTERNET.com.” A wide variety of citizens also participated by providing testimony about their views. 

I found the hearing to be very informative and compelling. It's impressive that the organizations chose New Mexico as the location for their first hearing on net neutrality since the return of Congress to Washington after the November election.  Unfortunately, I didn't hear the topic of net neutrality mentioned by any New Mexico candidate this fall, even though New Mexico ranks 47th out of the 50 states in terms of access to the internet because of high costs and inadequate services. Only 10% of Native Americans in the state are connected to the internet. No wonder our education statistics rank so low. Of course rural people, the forgotten Native Americans and other native New Mexicans are the ones that suffer -- especially low-income folks, whether inner city or rural.

If Governor-elect Susana Martinez really cares about the our people and our future, she should be pounding down the doors to demand net neutrality and access for all New Mexicans. This is the way to business growth, better health and stronger families -- it is a perfect win-win situation.

The hearing was co-hosted by Free Press, the Center for Media Justice and the Media Literacy Project. If you attended, I think you would agree they did a fine job. The event was well attended, the speakers were excellent and the public hearing portion featured a diverse mix of New Mexicans of various ages and backgrounds explaining what the internet means to them. There was very compelling testimony from middle school children to adults, from artists of the spoken word to health care providers. All stressed that they NEED the internet to function well in their daily lives. What would prevent them from having affordable and easy access to the internet? Corporate greed.

Let’s face it, our country has severely fallen behind other nations in making this modern communication tool available for all. Without it, we are entering the 21st century with at least one hand tied behind our back -- and maybe even a patch on one eye and cotton stuffed in one ear. Severely handicapped.

What is net neutrality about? Simply, a fast lane for all versus a slow lane; monopolies setting the rules with only profit in mind versus common-sense regulations that assure fair access for everyone.  The issue of net neutrality is really about the future of all communication in America -- and who will have access. Who will learn and grow and who will be left behind? In the past, we have instituted rules developed for the common good in many areas important to the public -- highways, railroads, telephones, our public air waves. Now we need to do the same for internet access.

The battle is really about preserving our democracy.

The last speaker at the podium was FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. When I saw this rather curmudgeonly figure walking to the podium, I thought oh crap ... I know what this guy is going to say and it won't be good. But I was very wrong. I discovered that Copps is a true liberal -- in the traditional and best sense of the word. He talked about the needs of the people and strengthening democracy, about the greedy corporations, about the lack of comprehensive and even-handed news on our public air waves. It was refreshing to hear him discuss the importance of ensuring that our communication networks serve the public interest and provide access to wide-ranging and diverse news sources so Americans can be educated on informed on the issues.

“Right now we are not getting the news that democracy needs to sustain it,” Commissioner Copps said. "Opinions are not facts."


Michael Copps on media failures

Commissioner Copps listened intently to each and every person testifying -- taking notes, nodding his head and even clapping at times! He was authentically engaged in the testimony. He said he hadn't heard from so many young folks in other hearings, and he found their sweet voices insightful in the debate. He said he also enjoyed the creativity of the spoken word artists who testified. What he saw and heard was pure New Mexico -- a whole crop of creative, smart, hardworking, caring people ready to engage in the battle at hand.


Spoken word testimony

In conclusion, Commissioner Copps urged people to stay involved and keep up the pressure for real net neutrality and ready access for all. He said although grassroots work is never easy, it's necessary to make sure the will of the people is heard. “Truth has got to go out like water across the land,” he said. “People must understand what is at stake. You --action -- now” is what's needed.


Commissioner Copps calls for citizen action now

Click for a playlist of all the video clips from this hearing.

All photos and videos by M.E. Broderick.

You can see a video of the entire hearing at the New Mexico in Focus website, as well as a video and live blog archive at Freepress. Check out reports on various aspects of the hearing at local blogs NM FBIHOP and El Grito, at the Colorlines site, The Hill and Save the Internet.

November 18, 2010 at 02:27 PM in Hispanic Issues, Media, Minority Issues, Native Americans, Net Neutrality, Web/Tech | Permalink

Comments

Thank you Mary Ellen for going to the trouble of putting this together, complete with video. Great post.

Main lessons from history usually get lost in discussing this. Does anyone still remember the middle class prosperity of the '50s and '60s? That was made possible, in part, by an aggressive effort that pushed infrastructure out into smaller towns and rural areas, such as electric power and telephones under FDR. Universal Service was the key to it, a formula by which rich profit centers in the big cities funded less dense population service.

The ethic involved was promoting the common wealth, which by the way, is referenced in certain old documents.

The present debate echoes the debates of the 1920s and '30s leading up to the establishment of the FCC in the first place.

One might speculate that, if it had not been for the dire circumstances of the Great Depression, the special interest lobbyists would have been able to turn back Universal Service.

To me, the potential of fora like this for enriching public dialogue entirely flows from the internet as it is, and would likely be brought to heel as another aspect of the Mainstream Media if the internet was to be turned into gated communities.

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Nov 19, 2010 9:22:02 AM

Thanks Stuart..."The ethic involved was promoting the common wealth" that is it right there! The commonwealth I love that word!
Stuart all the video of the event is truly worth watching.

Posted by: mary ellen | Nov 19, 2010 10:16:54 AM