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HMG Statement on Net Neutrality

March 5, 2015

Howard Media Group Statement on FCC Policy on Net Neutrality
March 2015

The Howard Media Group (HMG) supports the policy adopted by the US Federal Communications Commission on February 26, 2015, establishing free and open access to the Internet. The commission’s ruling on Net Neutrality ensures that all persons and groups will have equal access to the Internet with freedom to participate fully in public and private discourse.

Moreover, this FCC decision is consistent with the spirit of freedom of expression underlying both the First Amendment of the US Constitution and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 19 of the UDHR specifically upholds individual rights to “receive impartial information and ideas through any media. . . regardless of frontiers.”

In declaring the Internet to be a public utility or “common carrier” under Title II of the Communications Act, the FCC recognizes both the need to apply common carriage obligations to broadband service in order to protect First Amendment’s free speech objectives, such as viewpoint diversity, and the nation’s heavy reliance on digital communication. This digital reliance was verified by the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau finding that 74% of Americans use the Internet at home. The new policy also paves the way for local governments to establish low-cost Internet service in their communities more easily.

While we are aware that Net Neutrality opponents have sought to politicize the policy as restrictive of corporate opportunity to control the Internet, we believe such concerns are outweighed by the public’s need to exercise its freedom of expression in the marketplace of ideas that is essential to democracy. Free speech rights of individuals should not be sacrificed to serve the economic interests of corporate owners of broadband facilities who already have easy access and a wealth of resources to reach their audiences.

As communication scholars dedicated to Howard University’s mission of advocating for the civil and human rights of all -- particularly for marginalized and disfranchised groups -- we applaud this policy as a responsible action by the FCC, which is charged with the duty to protect the public interest.

Finally, although we expect corporate media conglomerates and industry lobbyists to accelerate their well-funded campaigns against the ruling in both courts and Congress, HMG will continue to work with like minded public interest entities to maintain a free, open and equitable Internet for all living in the United States.