With the Federal Communications Commission going back to the drawing board on Net Neutrality and Comcast recently announcing its proposed take-over of Time Warner Cable, the internet landscape as we know it is changing. National Latino organizations are reacting -- with what could be described as "skeptical optimism."

Comcast/Time Warner 

One of the major Latino organizations to respond to the proposed merger of Comcast NBCUniversal and Time Warner Cable, the National Hispanic Leaderships Agenda (NHLA) sees the proposed move as potentially beneficial. The NHLA is a coalition of 37 preeminent national Latino organizations in the U.S., and it has a preexisting, FCC-backed arrangement with Comcast NBCUniversal to promote diversity, engage Spanish-speaking customers, and invest in the Latino community.

The NHLA sees the merger as a possibility to strengthen Comcast's pledge to the Latino community and extend it to a whole new company. "Our coalition views the proposed merger between Comcast NBCUniversal and Time Warner Cable as a high priority for Latino organizations to address given the potential impact on Latino access to media and broadband," stated Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair, in a release. "We look forward to engaging these companies in a robust discussion about this transaction and how it will impact our communities."

The NHLA will study the proposed merger and asses its impact on Hispanic inclusion and the pledge Comcast NBCUniversal made to the NHLA, as well as keeping a close eye on how the new giant cable conglomerate would affect quality of service, broadband adoption, and affordability -- which remains an important issue for low-income Latinos. "Comcast NBCUniversal has a strong track record of engaging with the NHLA and many of its members," stated Brent Wilkes, NHLA Vice Chair. "We look forward to engaging them around these important merger issues in the weeks and months ahead."

FCC Net Neutrality

Meanwhile, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) -- which saw the court strike-down of the FCC's previous Open Internet (Net Neutrality) rules as a danger that could disempower Latinos and other minorities -- has turned an optimistic, but skeptical eye towards FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's new proposals to resurrect Net Neutrality.

While Tom Wheeler is attempting a "middle way" course to enforce Net Neutrality principles without reclassifying internet service providers as "common carriers," or utilities like landline telephone services - which would significantly alter the regulatory landscape and open its authority to further court challenges - the NHMC thinks Wheeler isn't going far enough.

"It has become increasingly clear, that the best course of action would be for the FCC to reclassify Internet access service as a Title II common carrier service -- and it is also likely the only course of action that will allow the FCC to achieve the goals it has set today and fully protect consumers from providers that would hope to block or degrade Internet traffic for financial, ideological, or other reasons," said NHMC Policy Director Michael Scurato in a release. "Beyond that, pursuing the course of reclassification would be a cross-cutting and much needed win for consumers in the United States, enabling the FCC to enact policies to make broadband Internet access affordable, reliable, and universal." 

 "What's at stake is the ability of Latinos and other people of color, who have faced discrimination at the hands of mainstream media, to tell our own stories, conduct commerce and organize for social justice on the Internet," said NHMC Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jessica J. González, who also serves on the FCC's Open Internet Advisory Committee and who saw the Jan. defeat of Net Neutrality as a disempowering move. "The FCC Chair's statement should be a call to action for Internet users as well as the millions of people in the U.S. who cannot afford broadband Internet access at home. As the FCC prepares to initiate a process to institute these proposals, now is a crucial time to raise our voices and ensure that the FCC does not go down the failed path of attempting to assert legal authority that the court has repeatedly rejected."

Part of the Conversation

The overall thrust of both Latino organizations is that Latino voices -- individuals, business owners, and organizations -- need to be part of the discussion on the changing world of the internet. And because the internet is a mostly commercial enterprise, Latino voices will be heard - whether through civil discussion or through the market.

That's because, as Nielsen research recently put it, U.S. Latinos "are ahead of the digital curve." Nielsen's research, backed up by other surveys like those by Pew, show that Latinos watch more streaming video, own smartphones at a much higher rate, use social media more actively, and plan on purchasing or upgrading their devices much more frequently than the national average. And, of course, the Hispanic population is growing, along with Latino spending power.

"Latinos," of course, are not a monolithic group that thinks or buys the same way, but Comcast and the FCC have to know that listening to Hispanic organizations' view of the future of the internet is important -- especially since Latinos are increasingly the first ones to get there.