The FCC Net Neutrality debate has caused division between minority and Latino advocacy organizations, sparking a war of words between two, in particular.

The Federal Communications Commission's proposed Open Internet rules have not only led to criticism by Net Neutrality advocates and a wave of public comments on the FCC's website, it's also split some Latino advocacy groups and generated a tense debate over how the government should proceed in reinstating the Open Internet.

The Open Internet's Strikedown and Two Diverging Paths To Restore It

For those who aren't familiar with the controversy surrounding the FCC's proposed Open Internet rules, here is a quick refresher. In January of this year, a federal appeals court struck down rules governing fixed Internet service providers (ISPs) called the "Open Internet" rules, saying the FCC hadn't properly set up its authority to enforce them.

But the FCC had a couple options to preserve those rules, which previously (more or less) had enforced the concept of Net Neutrality -- the principle that ISPs should transparently treat all legal data equally on their networks, neither blocking nor favoring any type of Internet traffic. The FCC's new proposed rules would allow ISPs to give faster service to content providers willing to pay more, as long as the deals aren't "commercially unreasonable," which has caused an uproar among Net Neutrality advocates who call it a provision that would allow for unfair internet "fast lanes."

The Divide Between "Light" Regulation and Reclassification

However controversial and in the spotlight the "fast lane" debate is, it's just a backdrop to the public drama developing between two Latino organizations, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) and the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

The debate centers on how the FCC should reinstate its authority to enforce Open Internet rules. As we previously reported, the NHMC and its coalition of minority and Latino organizations have recently called for reclassification of ISPs as "common carriers" -- which is legally akin to defining them as public utilities like water or power companies -- under a provision of established federal law called "Title II" of the Communications Act.

Meanwhile, the HTTP and its own coalition of minority and Latino organizations, have come out in favor of the FCC taking lighter regulatory action under the so-called "Section 706" authority (which is how the FCC is currently proceeding).

(Photo : Screenshots:, Two Latino media, technology, and telecommunications organizations are going head-to-head over the FCC's Open Internet proposal

NHMC and HTTP FCC Debate Gets Heated and Personal

Both organizations make familiar arguments that their own approach will ensure more universal access, better service, and a more affordable Internet to bridge the digital divide, with the NHMC saying the status quo is unacceptable and government intervention is needed to reign in powerful ISPs, and HTTP arguing that heavy regulation will stifle innovation, freeze investment, and hamper the economic engine of the Internet.

It's a microcosm of the larger public debate over the future of the Open Internet or Net Neutrality, and it's important that the public know both sides of the argument, since they shed light on an issue that will soon decide the future of the Internet as we know it.

But what has become notable about this particular debate is less the light it's shed and more the heat it's generated. A war of words has recently erupted between HTTP's Martin Chavez and NHMC's Alex Nogales, with Nogales calling HTTP "nothing more than an industry front-group" for powerful telecom companies "that is at best misinformed and at worst intentionally distorting facts as it actively opposes efforts to better serve the communications needs of Latinos," and pointing out that Chavez, a senior advisor to HTTP, is also a consultant for a lobbying firm whose clientele include Verizon.

Chavez then responded saying (an organization allied with NHMC, implying Nogales by extension) "can't get their story straight." Chavez argued Nogales and his allies "credit the free Internet (never before regulated by Title II) with having helped advance causes important to Latinos but then complain" that those opposing Title II "'make it sound like their position is meant to protect Latinos.'" Chavez said most "Latino organizations and most experts" are in favor of "light" regulation and against Title II, which he calls "a decades old rotary phone regulatory regime." Chavez then asked, "why must Latinos who disagree with Alex Nogales and be subjected to attacks on their personal integrity?"

The most recent salvo then came from Nogales this week, who responded to Martin Chavez's reaction stating, "Regrettably, what Marty did say in his statement is just as deceptive as what he conveniently left out. Of the many fabrications, Marty said that 'most Latino organizations' oppose the FCC using" the Title II regulatory route. Nogales called this assertion "patently false," naming several Latino organizations on NHMC's side of the debate.

Getting yet a little more direct, Nogales then said he was personally sending a copy of an open letter to Latinos rallying for the Title II position, adding, "Marty, consider this your conscience. If your organization, HTTP, is truly independent, then you have the power to put it on the right path."

One can only imagine where the very public and contentious conversation will go from there, but the exchange clearly demonstrates how intensely Latinos on both sides of the debate view the importance of the FCC's decision on its Open Internet proposal -- which the public can still voice their opinions on, in the form of "reply comments" through September 10. If you haven't yet, read up on the issue, decide where you stand, and make your voice heard.