The Rev. Jesse Jackson is becoming highly involved in a debate over Internet regulation is something few people saw coming – until now. But what even fewer people might expected is who Jackson agrees – and disagrees – with on such a contentious issue.
Jackson was one of eight leaders to meet Thursday with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to discuss the issue of net neutrality and what it means for the future of the Internet, according to a summary of the meeting released today.
At the center of their private discussion was the question of whether the Internet should fall under what's known as Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. By subjecting the Internet to Title II regulations, the government would essentially categorize the Internet as a public utility much like electricity or water, thereby allowing the Federal Communication Commission to oversee Internet accessibility for all consumers. Without so-called “fast lanes," Internet service providers wouldn't be able to give preferential treatment to higher-paying customers.
On its face, net neutrality might sound like a win-win for low-income Americans. It would mean leveling the playing field to allow equal online access to all Americans, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
Or would it?
Jackson, a long-time civil rights activist for low-income and middle-class minorities, was abundantly clear in his opposition to net neutrality. He cited the potential "effects on investment in broadband" and its "ultimate impact on minority communities and job creation," said Berin Szoka, who is the president of TechFreedom, a nonpartisan technology think-tank based in Washington, D.C.
Szoka, who was in attendance at the meeting Thursday, wrote in a letter to the secretary of the FCC Tuesday that implementation of net neutrality under Title II would harm investment in broadband infrastructure, which would reduce broadband deployment and speeds in minority communities."
"We got a lot of poor folks who don't have broadband. If you create something where, for the poor, the lane is slower and the cost is more, you can't survive," Jackson said, the Washington Post reported.
The increasing worry among some that tighter Internet regulations would discourage Internet service providers from performing network upgrades, especially in poor communities, is one that President Barack Obama has already tried to address.
In an online statement last week, Obama called for the FCC to implement the "strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality." He said that doing so would "protect an open, accessible and free Internet." But Jackson, who often sides with the president, just isn't convinced more regulation would amount to anything good.
In fact, Jackson's take on the issue is similar to those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) struck a similar tone to that of Jackson as he also cautioned against more regulation.
“[Net neutrality] puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices for consumers,” Cruz said.
(H/T: Washington Post)
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