Net Neutrality Essential to Public

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Albuquerque Journal
Andrea Quijada
Albuqeurque Journal Opinion
Fri, 11/07/2014

It is clear that New Mexicans believe and support strong net neutrality protections.

This was evident this past June when nearly 300 people took part in a meeting in Albuquerque with Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and urged him to protect the open Internet by treating Internet service providers as common carriers.

In addition, thousands of New Mexicans have filed comments or signed petitions calling on the FCC to protect real net neutrality as the commission considers rules on how to protect the open Internet.

But what New Mexicans didn’t know until recently was that Martin Chavez, the former mayor of Albuquerque, isn’t one of those net neutrality supporters.

In fact, Chavez is leading an effort in Washington calling on the FCC to kill net neutrality on behalf of a Latino front group – The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership – made up of many of our nation’s most recognizable Latino civil rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Net neutrality is the principle that requires Internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. This prevents providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking or discriminating against Web sites or Web traffic.

Net neutrality is the reason why the Internet has developed into the critical communications system that allows everyone a chance to speak for themselves without being censored by corporate gatekeepers. Essentially, the Internet has no borders and New Mexico wants to keep it that way.

Chavez has appeared on panels in Washington before powerful corporate and political leaders claiming to be speaking on behalf of the Latino community when he denounces any effort to treat Internet service providers as common carriers, reciting industry talking points.

But this shouldn’t be surprising since Chavez works as a consultant for the Ibarra Strategy Group in Washington, a government relations firm that counts Verizon as one of its clients.

National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales has questioned whether it was appropriate for Chavez to simultaneously represent the interest of his clients while claiming to also represent the interest of the Latino community.

The answer is simple: It is totally inappropriate.

Chavez wants us to believe that Internet service providers, if left unchecked, will somehow serve the needs of the Latino community. But New Mexicans know better.

We know that Internet service providers will do just about anything to increase their profit margins, which includes refusing to build out their broadband networks to poor and rural communities. It is why New Mexico ranks dead last, by most accounts, in terms of broadband availability and adoption.

If Internet service providers are unwilling to connect thousands of households to a vital communications service because it does not maximize their profit margins, what do you think they would do if the FCC allows them to increase their bottom lines by discriminating online? (Hint: Protecting our Internet freedom would not be on their priority lists.)

This is why it is critical for New Mexicans to speak up and call on the FCC to treat Internet service providers as common carriers in order to protect net neutrality and our online digital rights.

Because people like Martin Chavez do not speak for us.