Net Neutrality Activists Take Civil Rights Fight to Doorsteps of Telecom Giants

October 11, 2020 0 By HearthstoneYarns

In the lead-up to the FCC’s pivotal net neutrality vote on Thursday, civil rights and media justice organizations across the United States are taking their demands for an open internet to the store-fronts of the telecommunications giants that continue to aggressively fight the protections.

In partnership with the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-net), local organizations began rallying last week to bring the call “Don’t Block My Internet” to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner. Notable actions have already taken place in numerous cities—including Berkeley, California; Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; and San Antonio, Texas—with more slated for the coming days.

“Net neutrality is a life and death issue for black Americans,”
—E. Martel Miller, Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

“The Internet has become the place where we tell our stories, where we are not only the consumers of content, but also the creators,” said Andrea Figueroa of the San Antonio-based Martinez Street Women’s Center in a press statement. “Communities of color, the LGBT community, those focused on workers rights, small businesses, artists, youth, etc. have a lot at stake if net neutrality is not preserved.”

“Our voices would be stifled,” Figueroa continued, “and as communities still fighting to achieve equity, we have to tell the telecom lobbyists that the internet must stay open, and that our voices can be louder than their dollars.”

“Net neutrality is a life and death issue for black Americans,” said E. Martel Miller, Board Member of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center. “For example, in 2011, police officers here in Champaign, Illinois choked and pepper sprayed a young African American man as he was handcuffed in the back of a squad car. The public had no knowledge this happened until months later when I leaked the squad car video and put it on our news site.”

“It was seen by over 30,000 outraged viewers in a few days,” Miller continued. “The Chief of Police, who had overseen police abuse of our community for a decade, was gone within a month.”

Malkia Cyril, executive director for the Center for Media Justice (which oversees MAG-Net), told Common Dreams that a civil rights strategy plays a critical role in the push for an open internet.