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Latino Journalist and Filmmaker Groups: Tell Tom Wheeler To Protect Net Neutrality

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First Posted: Jan 30, 2014 05:22 PM EST
FCC net neutrality open internet
(Photo : Flickr: SeanWF)

More Latino organizations are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to protect Net Neutrality, after a Federal Appeals Court effectively struck down the agency's rules that enforced the policy.

This time, it's the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the National Association of Latino Independent Film Producers (NALIP) that are warning that an internet devoid of Net Neutrality will make it harder for Latinos to to express themselves online.

In a joint column for the Huffington Post, written by NALIP Executive director Axel W. Caballero and President of NAHJ Hugo Balta, the two expressed frustration at underrepresentation of Latinos in the mainstream media and explained why an open, free Internet based on Net Neutrality rules is important to Latinos:

"As Latino filmmakers and journalists, we understand that the stories we tell matter. They play a critical role in defining our culture and help people make sense of the world we live in. But too often, the stories that are being told on the local news, on cable outlets or on the big screen about Latinos reinforce dangerous stereotypes to the detriment of our community. It is why our organizations have long pressured the industry to hire more Latinos to ensure our stories are being told. It is also why we are deeply troubled by the impact of a recent court decision on our online free speech rights."

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That recent court decision was handed down in mid-January by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled in favor of an appeal by Verizon against the FCC. The court decision said that the FCC's Open Internet Rules -- a relatively simple framework enacted by the FCC in 2010 that barred internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against or blocking any legal internet traffic -- did not apply to ISPs, due to a technicality in how the FCC defined those ISPs.

Basically, the FCC called ISPs "information services" instead of "common carriers" (which would mean they're public utilities subject to regulation), and so none of the FCC rules -- outlawing ISPs slowing down some internet traffic, blocking websites, or charging websites, services, or even customers for special access -- apply.

"Now these companies are free to interfere with Web traffic," as Balta and Caballero bluntly put it. While mainstream media and film often portray Latinos with misrepresentative stereotypes, whenever Latinos can get access at all, the open web is a platform for creative Latinos to express themselves without filters. "We understand the open Internet provides our members and community with the means to speak for themselves, which has been difficult to do in the mainstream media," said Balta and Caballero.

The two organizations are calling for the FCC to re-adopt strong Net Neutrality measures, since the court ruling actually just puts the ball in the FCC's court to change its definitions and reregulate ISPs -- something that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has only expressed interest in in an incredibly cautious manner.

(Screenshot: C-Span)
(Screenshot: C-Span)

Wrote Caballero and Balta, "As the two largest organizations representing Latino journalists and filmmakers, we are calling on the FCC to take quick action to reestablish its legal authority and pass strong Net Neutrality protections." The two organizations have set up a petition at Presente.org, urging members and concerned Latinos to speak up.

The column comes only a week after Jessica Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), argued that the abolishment of Net Neutrality disempowers low-income Latinos consumers and deepens the digital divide by giving ISPs free reign to run up charges for services they otherwise would have to provide for one monthly fee. The NHMC also has a campaign to bring back Net Neutrality on its site.

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