We all depend on our communications ecosystem, and we should all have a say in its future. The regulators making decisions that will shape how Americans connect and communicate for a generation ought to be listening to us.
But so far, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has resisted our repeated calls to get out of the lobbyist-filled Washington bubble and hear from the everyday people who will have to live with the decisions it makes.
That is, until Tuesday, when Commissioner Ajit Pai hosted a public hearing on the Open Internet at the Bush School at Texas A&M University.
I attended, and listened as a panel of industry professionals went back and forth on net neutrality. But the crowd of Aggies and media reformers from across Texas were unified in support for real Open Internet protections.
We cheered as panelists like Stewart Youngblood from the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and Data Foundry CTO Eric Hanigen testified to the need to treat broadband like a utility – like water or electricity.
The crowd didn’t buy any industry-driven misinformation either. We chuckled as a rep from Alamo Broadband claimed that no Internet Service Provider wanted to engage in paid prioritization – even after Verizon sued the FCC for the right to do just that!
And when he claimed that FCC net neutrality rules were unnecessary because ISPs had a “conscience,” there was an audible groan from the crowd – folks who’ve dealt with the predations of the cable company are understandably skeptical of their ability to self-regulate.
The conversation was lively, and Commissioner Pai commendably took questions from the audience, making it an actual public hearing. But although the panel reflected ideological diversity, it lacked professional diversity. It was all insiders -- no one spoke for millions of everyday people who have already told the FCC that reclassification is the only way to protect their online experience.
Commissioner Pai’s hearing made it clear that there’s real support for the Open Internet across the country. The FCC needs to move the conversation beyond the Beltway, and hear from the folks that have to live with their decisions.
A great place to start would be next week’s convening in Brooklyn. If you’re in the New York area, join us to discuss future of communications.
What: New York Speaks: A Hearing on Our Rights to Connect and Communicate
Where: Dweck Center, Brooklyn Central Library
Time: Monday October 27, 6-8pm
Tickets are free, but going fast, so RSVP today!
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Media and Democracy