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Jessica J. González Testifies Before Congress: Net Neutrality a Step Toward Remedying Structural Racism in Communications

WASHINGTON - What follows is the spoken testimony of Free Press Action Vice President of Strategy and Senior Counsel Jessica J. González, which will be delivered today before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

González is testifying in support of restoring the Federal Communications Commission’s Title II authority to prevent online blocking, throttling and discrimination by internet access providers.

González’ full written testimony is available here.

Regarding “Preserving an Open Internet for Consumers, Small Businesses, and Free Speech”

Chairman Doyle, Ranking Member Latta, and subcommittee members, thank you for having me.

I’m here today on behalf of Free Press’ 1.4 million members who are calling for reinstatement of the FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules and the return of the FCC’s legal authority to protect us from ISP discrimination and abuse.

I’m also here as a Mexican-American woman from a working class family. My father grew up in a Los Angeles suburb where there were no Mexicans allowed. I understand that millions of people who came before me, including members of this House past and present, have fought against discrimination and for other causes that enabled me to be here today.

I say this to underscore that what we’re doing here has real-life impacts.

The U.S. government has a long history of discrimination and racism. Indeed it used the media system to legitimize the enslavement of Black people, and the genocide and displacement of Native peoples. And although it’s taken some steps to reduce racism and discrimination in certain aspects of American life, like housing, it’s done little to remedy structural racism in the communications sector.

The FCC’s 2015 Net Neutrality Order is one exception. That order gave the FCC clear authority to prevent and investigate shady ISP practices, like, but not limited to, blocking, throttling and discriminating against lawful content.

The Trump FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal the order was wildly unpopular. Recent polls show that 82 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Independents object.

And people of color have been some of the most vocal critics, in part because we have more at stake. Never before in history have barriers to entry been lower for us to reach a large audience with our own stories in our own words; to start small businesses; to organize for change.

This hits close to home for me because my best friend, Vanessa, is a blogger and small business owner. While she was pregnant, and in the midst of the Great Recession, she was laid off from her job. She began blogging from her apartment following her daughter’s birth in 2010. It was a labor of love: Her intention was to fill the void of content designed for and by parents raising multiracial children.

She began writing love letters to her daughter to ensure that the beauty and power of Black and Brown women were front and center, even in a world that tries to subjugate us at every turn. Vanessa’s blog, DeSuMama.com, underscores that mothers “are the storytellers, dream keepers, and legacy builders for the next generation!”

Today De Su Mama has a loyal following and is building understanding across cultures. It’s also a successful business that has helped Vanessa supplement the family income while being at home with her children and even supported her family’s journey to home ownership!

The end of Net Neutrality means that her voice might be drowned out by corporate media that can pay more to access her audience: some of the same corporate media that have failed spectacularly to represent us. This could impair her family’s livelihood and the reach of her cultural influence.

Vanessa cares so deeply about this issue that she flew here from Long Beach, California, on her own dime to be here. She’s sitting right behind me with her daughter, and I’m not going to look back there right now because I’ll get emotional and forget the rest of my important lawyer nerd points that I saved for the end.

In my written testimony I go into detail about how ISPs abuse their power when Net Neutrality is not in place.

  • Prior to the 2015 Net Neutrality Order, Comcast secretly blocked and slowed file-sharing apps;
  • MetroPCS announced plans to block streaming video from all sources except YouTube;
  • AT&T said it would disable use of FaceTime over cell connections unless customers subscribed to more expensive plans; and
  • AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon deliberately limited the capacity at ISP interconnection points, throttling Netflix.

Just to name a few.

And since the 2017 repeal, we’ve seen some seriously suspect ISP behavior – even in the face of massive public scrutiny. A recent study shows that the largest ISPs appear to be slowing traffic from apps like YouTube, Netflix and Skype. But because the FCC has sworn off its authority to protect broadband consumers, it doesn’t even have the power to investigate.

The real shame of this whole thing is that Net Neutrality was working, and Chairman Pai’s justification for its repeal was built on a mountain of lies. Pai promised us that ISP investment and deployment declined under Net Neutrality and would expand following its repeal. We’ve seen the numbers, and the exact opposite is true. In reality, ISP investment and deployment trends relate little, if at all, to Net Neutrality regulations.

I hope this new Congress seizes the opportunity to right the wrongs of the Pai FCC and restore fundamental protections that Americans want and need.

Thank you.

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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