In the intense lobbying frenzy leading up to yesterday's net neutrality vote at the FCC, several minority groups weighed in by sending letters to the agency in opposition of the proposed regulations. Some in the industry suggested these groups were spurred to action by powerful telecom lobbies of AT&T and other Internet operators Verizon and Comcast, in part to influence the position of FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
Minority associations are taking exception to that conclusion, and in particular to a recent blog post written by Public Knowledge's communications director.
Today, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) sent a pointed letter to Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn, expressing their "deep indignation" over comments made in a blog posted by Art Brodsky. Hilary Shelton of the NAACP and Sylvia Aguilera of the HTTP say they "take genuine exeption to the manner in which the author dismisses minorities' opinions as naively misinformed."
In a blog post last weekend, Brodsky wrote:
"Perhaps the saddest part of the whole affair to date is the role of groups representing minority populations. For whatever reason--whether they believe what the Big Telecom companies tell them or not--many organizations seem to land on policies that hurt their constituencies and fall into ludicrous traps one suspects are not of their making."
Shelton and Aguilera read that to mean that minorities "are incapable of intelligently participating in sophisticated debates."
"It is categorically unacceptable to claim that minority advocacy groups are colluding with certain interests to exploit the ethnic self-identification of government officials who happen to be minorities in leadership positions at the FCC," they wrote in the letter, in which they demanded that Sohn repudiate the remarks.
In response to the letter, Sohn said the blog post was not meant to imply that minorities are uninformed, and she apologized that it was interpreted that way. She also pointed out the diverse views expressed by other organizations including the National Hispanic Media Coalition and other civil rights groups.
"Public Knowledge does believe, as do the more than 40 organizations representing people of color, women, and other traditionally marginalized communities that expressed unequivocal support for the Commission's rulemaking in the last few days, that network neutrality will benefit communities of color and all people of the United States."
In her remarks during yesterday's FCC meeting, Clyburn said "some parties prefer radioactive rhetoric and unseemly and unbecoming tactics. Such an approach may yield headlines, but it will not yield positive results with me."