Recently, a coalition of 42 prominent civil rights organizations that make up the National Minority Organizations (NMO) came out against Net Neutrality, despite the resoundingly negative effects this decision could have on the same communities these organizations exist to serve. Among them are two of the nation’s largest and oldest Asian American political groups: OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates (formerly Organization of Chinese Americans) and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL).
At its core, Net Neutrality means that no information on the internet is privileged over other information, which means that a homemade video made by a teen speaking out about bullying streams just as fast as a summer blockbuster on Netflix, or that conversations criticizing powerful public figures aren’t subject to interference.
Ending Net Neutrality safeguards means internet service providers would have the power to censor what we view, post, and share on the internet.
Just like your phone company cannot disallow certain calls based on who’s making them or what they’re about, neither should your internet service provider decide what content you can access online. Destroying Net Neutrality could also lead to internet service providers providing the best and fastest service only to those with the deepest pockets and greatest corporate and political influence.
Even the NMO itself rightfully notes that “access to broadband, adoption, and digital literacy are critical civil rights issues.” The coalition of legacy groups has also cited ample data indicating that while internet use is high among some communities of color, poor areas – many populated by people of color – continue to be under-served.
Despite concluding that broadband access is a civil right, OCA and JACL have decided to argue against Net Neutrality, choosing instead to favor a system that permits and encourages discriminatory internet access that puts users at the whims of big corporations. Even worse, it appears that the executive leadership at OCA and JACL (many of them with their own corporate telecommunications ties) made this decision without informing or getting input from members.
OCA and JACL’s anti-Net Neutrality stance is a major misstep – a misstep that puts corporate control of digital information over the needs of people and communities. This misstep also proves that these legacy organizations aren’t speaking for us, and that they are failing to hold our communities’ best technological interests at heart.
As Asian Americans, OCA and JACL members, and allies, we demand that OCA and JACL reverse their stand on Net Neutrality.