Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

If It Isn't Broken, You're Not Looking Hard Enough: Net Neutrality and Its Impact on Minority Communities

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

If It Isn't Broken, You're Not Looking Hard Enough: Net Neutrality and Its Impact on Minority Communities

Article excerpt

                             TABLE OF CONTENTS  I.   INTRODUCTION                                                330 II.  BACKGROUND AND LEGAL HISTORY                                331      A. The FCC and the Development of Net Neutrality            331      B. After Extensive Debate, the FCC Enshrined Net         Neutrality in the Open Internet Order                    336      C. In the Matter of Protecting and Promoting the         Open Internet                                            337      D. Minority Groups Are Categorically Underrepresented         in the Media                                             339 III. ANALYSIS                                                    341      A. The FCC Was Correct to Reclassify Broadband Companies         as Common Carriers to Protect and Ensure Net Neutrality  341      B. What Net Neutrality Means for Minority Communities       343      C. The FCC Must Actively Protect the Open Internet          345      D. Why Minority Groups Seem to Be Split on the Issue        348      E. Is Zero-Rating Still a Valid Option?                     350 IV.  CONCLUSION                                                  351 

I. INTRODUCTION

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but the same is most certainly not true of Internet Service Providers under the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the FCC's garden of regulations, an entity's classification matters more than the substantive characteristics of said entity. By regulating Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC initially forfeited its right to strongly regulate these entities, leading to a debate that has become one of the most hot-button issues to the American public: net neutrality.

When cogitating on net neutrality, many fail to consider all aspects of the debate, including the effect it has on minority communities. However, it is the unique struggles of these underrepresented communities that make FCC regulation of ISPs necessary. This Note will tackle the Net Neutrality debate by considering the disproportionately negative impact on minority groups that would result from ISPs' discriminatory behavior. While there may be no perfect solution, light must be shed on the unique challenges that minority groups face when dealing with Open Internet issues. There is a very real threat that Internet fast lanes can have a negative impact on the public in the long run, especially on these underrepresented minority communities.

The FCC is responsible for ensuring that telecommunications, cable, and broadcast companies continuously carry out the policies established by the Communications Act of 1934. (1) With the mission of promoting competition to "secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers," the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ("1996 Act") gave the FCC both the responsibility and the means to ensure innovation and the continued deployment of new telecommunications technology. (2)

The Internet has rightfully been credited for the accelerated innovation that characterizes this generation, and this innovation must be protected as it continues to grow and contribute to the United States economy. Net neutrality is the general concept that ISPs should enable access to all content and applications equally, regardless of the source, without favoring or blocking particular online services or websites. Simply put, the company that connects you to the Internet should not be able to control what you do on the Internet or how you do it. The net neutrality policy debate must work to foster continued innovation and progress to the public as a whole, which includes our silenced communities and not just the loud majority.

Bringing broadband providers (ISPs) under the authority of the FCC via Title II regulation is a controversial yet necessary move to prevent a disproportionate negative impact on minority communities who have categorically been underrepresented in the media. …

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