Huffington Post Explores Why Some Rights Groups Sided with ISPs in Net Neutrality Fight

The Huffington Post has an interesting article attempting to unravel why some rights groups have sided with broadband Internet and mobile service providers in the fight over net neutrality. They specifically point the finger at the NAACP, who has decided that it would be bad to put restrictions on ISPs because it will stymie their efforts to build out broadband networks in urban areas.

But, while the report may single out the NAACP in its headline, it does go on to mention that over 40 civil rights groups are supporting broadband providers that oppose stricter net neutrality rules.

Critics of these groups claim that the only reason many of these groups oppose net neutrality rules is because they receive substantial donations or funding from many of the country's top broadband and mobile providers.

The NAACP is joined by the National Urban League and 40 minority groups represented by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, who filed comments with the FCC earlier this month in support of ISPs.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council received somewhere in the neighborhood of $725,000 in donations and sponsorships between 2009 and 2011 from Verizon, Time Warner and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

In a recent interview, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council president David Honig, said the funding his organization receives from the telecoms industry was not essential to its operations and did not have an influence on its position on net neutrality. He also said the group receives support from companies on both sides of the debate and that it opposes ISPs on other issues.

Honig went on to say that he is "saddened" by critics who think that – because his group received funding from telecoms companies – that it has somehow been "bought."

Another group that sided with ISPs is the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). On its website, it lists Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon as the members of its "corporate alliance." In 2006, AT&T gave LULAC $1.5 million to build technology centers in low-income Hispanic communities; and in 2008, Verizon gave the group $1 million to improve literacy among Hispanic children.

Brent Wilkes, national executive director of LULAC, said that it should be allowed to take whatever position it likes despite who gives it money.

"We take our stance based on what we believe are the best interests of the Latino community, and we have not been pressured by these companies," Wilkes said.

To be fair, many groups take different positions on issues even as they take donations from companies that might agree with them on one policy statement and oppose them on another. For example, Alex Nogales of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, serves on Comcast's diversity advisory council, even though his group is calling for stricter net neutrality rules.

But Nogales knows that taking a position against an industry that once contributed to your cause can mean a sudden loss of financial support; after the National Hispanic Media Coalition called for stronger net neutrality rules in 2010, Verizon officials stopped talking to Nogales and donating money to his organization, he said.

"When we took a position on net neutrality, that was the end of the relationship," Nogales said. "If you're on [Verizon's] side of an issue, they're eager to support you. If you're not, they're not going to support you. It's as simple as that."

You can read the entire article here.

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