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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 16, 2010

UNITY Urges FCC Not to Jeopardize Democracy of Internet

By Mini Swamy, TMCnet Contributor

Comcast (News - Alert) was founded in 1963 as a single-system cable operation, and is the country's largest provider of cable services, and one of the world's leading communications companies.

In 2008 it had reportedly blocked subscribers from using the file-sharing Web site BitTorrent (News - Alert), and the Federal communication Commission attempted to impose net neutrality rules on Comcast.

Net neutrality implies that no restrictions should be imposed on content, sites, or platforms, or on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and on the modes of communication allowed on the public Internet.

Comcast sued arguing that the FCC (News - Alert) did not have the authority to enforce Internet regulations, and the  U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled that the FCC had overstepped its jurisdiction under current law when it attempted to impose net neutrality rules on Comcast.

As a consequence of the court ruling, UNITY Journalists of Color were concerned about preserving a free and open Internet, and urged the FCC to take the necessary steps to reclaim the authority to regulate broadband networks.

Representing more than 8,000 journalists through its diverse member alliances, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. says the federal court decision in Comcast vs. FCC could have a chilling effect on the ability of the FCC to promote an open and accessible Internet.

UNITY urged the FCC to reclassify broadband as a basic utility service or a telecommunication service, in the hope that it would aid in reversing actions taken by previous commissions during the Bush Administration.

Following policy talks between UNITY, FCC commissioners, staffers and representatives of the other three commissioners,  UNITY president Barbara Ciara said that the ruling was very disappointing.

'Without the authority to set net neutrality rules, the FCC cannot promote a level playing field. It is imperative that our communities of color have the opportunity to tell stories and grow businesses without interference from corporate gatekeepers.'

Ciara continued  and said that communities of color may already have trouble accessing the Internet, and UNITY opposed any technological, legislative, or content strategies to block innovation and free speech on the Internet.

Expounding on the inappropriateness of the Court's ruling, Ciara said that universal access to the Internet was a basic right and that the needs of society were best served when diverse viewpoints were reflected and readily shared.

UNITY urged the FCC to re-establish its authority and look for alternative strategies to promote an available, accessible, and affordable Internet in order to ensure that democracy and free flow of ideas were not jeopardized.

The court essentially opened the door to multi-tiered download speeds and discrimination on the Internet, for the "What you get is what you pay for" concept will come into force.

Integrity of the Internet depended upon the inclusion of multiple media voices and communities of color,' Ciara said, adding that 'UNITY would continue to advocate for policies that allow those voices to be heard.

UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. is a strategic alliance advocating news coverage about people of color, and aggressively challenging its organizations at all levels to reflect the nation's diversity. UNITY is comprised of four national associations.

Mini Swamy is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard