New Report Warns of “Internet Apartheid” Without Net Neutrality

For Immediate Release

The Greenlining Institute
Contact: 

Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Coordinator, 510-926-4022

New Report Warns of “Internet Apartheid” Without Net Neutrality

Online Freedom Seen as Civil Rights Issue

BERKELEY - A new “Internet apartheid” could relegate millions of low-income Americans and communities of color to online slow lanes if the principle of net neutrality is not maintained, argues a Greenlining Institute report to be released March 21. “Saving the Open Internet: The Importance of Net Neutrality,” which journalists can preview online here, examines the full range of issues in the net neutrality debate. Key points include:

  • Although “net neutrality” is a relatively new term, the basic concept dates back to the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860, which required that each message be “impartially transmitted in order of its reception,” without the telegraph company picking out favorites for preferred treatment.
  • Net neutrality is not a call for government regulation of the Internet, but simply a renewal of this 152-year-old principle of impartiality in transmitting information, preserving the free Internet we know today.
  • Without net neutrality, there will be a sort of “Internet apartheid,” with the least wealthy individuals and small businesses relegated to online slow lanes, reducing their chances for economic advancement and political and social engagement. Communities of color are particularly vulnerable to this.
  • The FCC’s authority to enforce net neutrality needs to be strengthened and clarified. This is particularly true of the growing wireless field, in which value-conscious customers already have few choices, and upon which communities of color depend. (As documented in Greenlining’s 2011 report, iHealth, people of color are less likely than whites to have broadband access at home and are more likely to access the Internet via a smartphone rather than a computer.)

“This will be one of the great civil rights struggles of the 21st century,” said report co-author Stephanie Chen, Greenlining senior legal counsel. “Net neutrality is essential for both free expression and the free market to flourish online. Without net neutrality, Internet apartheid will force millions of Americans into information slow lanes.”

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