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FCC, WTF?!? Update: A Win for an Open Internet

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May 7th, 2010

By Guest Bogger Lila Kitaeff

At Reel Grrls, we like to keep track of what the Federal Communications Commission is doing and how it affects our lives. When the FCC came to town a couple of years ago to hold a public hearing about media consolidation, a bunch of Reel Grrls participants went down to testify and dress up like zombies (media zombies, that is). They even made a film (“A Generation Of Consolidation”) about it:

Lately the biggest thing going on in Media Justice is Net Neutrality: creating the protections that will allow for a free and open internet, one in which no one would have greater or faster access to distributing or receiving information based on $$ or anything else. Clearly, this is an issue for the FCC, our national consumer-rights commission that handles all things communications-related. Right? Well, the FCC hasn’t been so sure about that.

This weekend, mere days after holding a community hearing in Seattle in which community members demanded regulation for a free and open internet, Obama-appointed FCC chairman Julian Genachowski made noise about plans to keep broadband services deregulated. Say what?!?

Our friends at the Center for Media Justice elaborated:

According to yesterday’s Washington Post, Chairman Genachowski is buckling under industry pressure to side against open Internet protections. The Post cites several sources within the FCC who say that Genachowski is leaning toward keeping the current regulatory framework for broadband services in place.

But the current regulatory framework is unacceptable, because an appeals court ruled in April that the FCC lacked authority over Internet access issues. The court was simply responding to a problem of the agency’s own making: Under the Bush administration, it undercut its own authority over the Internet by classifying broadband as a Title I “information service” rather than a Title II “telecommunications service.” The Obama FCC can now fix this bad history by simply reversing the decisions made during the Bush era.

So, what would this mean? If the FCC does not reclassify broadband as something they have control over (and they should have control. If not them, who? Self-regulating big communication companies?), they would basically be saying it’s not their problem, hence taking OFF THE TABLE the idea of creating oversight for Net Neutrality that would allow us access to an open internet.

Here’s the awesome part: Over the last few days thousands of people wrote and called the FCC, letting them know that we need a free and open internet, and that reclassifying broadband as a Title II telecommunications service is important to our communities. We pushed back and they heard us!

We can feel good about this victory, but it’s just the beginning of the fight for Net Neutrality. As our friends at Reclaim the Media remind us:

Let’s take this victory as an opportunity to bring more people into the fight for an Open Internet. We know that big corporations might be upset today but tomorrow they’ll be back with their legions of lobbyists. Through the summer the FCC will be finalizing the terms of the reclassification and we must remain engaged and get our voices heard.

So what can we do next to keep the fight alive?

It’s not too late to head over to Free Press and tell Congress and the FCC that you stand with the 1.9 million people who have already signed their names to support Net Neutrality. If you’re a Facebook or Twitter user, you can stay in-the-know by becoming a fan or follower of MAG-NET, the Media Action Grassroots Network, a national network of grassroots social justice and media organizations.

Most importantly, you can commit to stay involved and up to date about this issue, and educate your friends, families, social networks and communities to do the same. Keep the pressure on and don’t let the FCC forget how much we care about — and need — a free and open internet!

For more resources, see:

Center for Media Justice

Save the Internet

Reclaim the Media

Media and Democracy Coalition

Guest Blogger Lila Kitaeff is a media activist, an award-winning filmmaker and Technical Director for Reel Grrls, a Seattle-based after-school program teaching filmmaking and media literacy to teenage girls.

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