Leading civil rights groups who for many years have been heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry are signaling their support for Donald Trump’s promised rollback of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some content providers over others.If any of these organizations make a fundraising pitch to you, you should find another recipient.
The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission established net neutrality by reclassifying high-speed internet as a regulated phone-like telecommunications service, as opposed to a mostly unregulated information service. The re-classification was cheered by advocates for a free and open internet.
But now Trump’s new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, is pushing to repeal the net neutrality reform by rolling back that re-classification — and he’s getting help not only from a legion of telecom lobbyists, but from civil rights groups.
In a little-noticed joint letter released last week, the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, OCA (formerly known as the Organization for Chinese Americans), the National Urban League, and other civil rights organizations sharply criticized the “jurisdictional and classification problems that plagued the last FCC” — a reference to the legal mechanism used by the Obama administration to accomplish net neutrality.
None of the civil rights groups that signed the joint letter responded to a request for comment.
It’s not the first time civil rights group have engaged in lobbying debates seemingly unrelated to their core missions, but in favor of their corporate donors. At a time when OCA received major funding from Southwest Airlines, the group filed a regulatory letter on behalf of the airline in support of Southwest’s bid to open flights at Houston airport. The NAACP, after receiving financial backing from Wal-Mart, helped the retail chain during its contentious bid to open stores in New York City.
The civil rights group opposed to net neutrality have employed several arguments against the proposal. In one filing made in 2010, the NAACP signed onto an argument from MMTC that net neutrality reforms were a waste of resources because the FCC should focus on “more pressing racial discrimination and exclusionary hiring and promotion practices of certain Silicon Valley high-tech companies.” In a separate filing in 2014, MMTC and the NAACP argued that reclassification would threaten the “fragile state of minority engagement in the digital ecosystem.”
While advocating against net neutrality, the organizations on the joint letter have raked in money from the telecom industry.
It appears that these groups have already gotten well remunerated for their services to corporate America.