Net neutrality remains of high interest to African-Americans. There’s been a huge surge of black folks online. When you factor in mobile internet access, there is no longer a digital divide. We are the ones who will be first in line to get gauged on prices or dissed on access & speeds if consumer & small business protections aren’t put into place. We need a level playing field both online and in the mobile market.

Color of Change is holdin’ it down. See their letter to House Dem leader Nancy Pelosi above.From Wired:

The founder of an influential, left-leaning web-based organization that advocates on African-American issues is asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to oppose the candidacy of Bobby Rush (D-Illinois), who is African-American, to become the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.

The reason?

“Congressman Rush has repeatedly supported the interests of the telecommunications industry over the interests of regular people, and has been a fierce opponent of network neutrality,” James Rucker, executive director of Color of Change, which has 800,000 online members, wrote in a letter to Pelosi Thursday.

Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers shouldn’t pick favorites on the web or discriminate against rival content. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is under intense pressure from his left flank to establish rules protecting net neutrality — and he has said those rules are forthcoming. Meanwhile, incoming Republicans are threatening to put the FCC on ice and warning him not to act on the issue, following the telecom party line that regulation is overkill since competition will preserve a fair internet.

Net neutrality backers argue that without regulation, the nation’s telecoms will unfairly discriminate against content, warping an open platform that has allowed services such as Google, Netflix and Pandora to thrive.

Rucker made it clear where he thinks Rush’s allegiances lie.

“I have grave doubts that Congressman Rush is capable of being an honest broker on important telecommunications matters,” Rucker, who was headed grassroots mobilization for Political Action from 2003-2005, wrote. “AT&T, America’s oldest and largest telecommunications company, has long been one of the largest donors to Congressman Rush’s campaign committee and leadership PAC.

“In addition, from 2001 to 2004 the company donated $1 million to a community center Rush founded in Chicago – an off-the-books donation that could lead one to wonder about the prospect of quid pro quo regarding the Congressman and AT&T,” Rucker added.

Bobby Rush stood up and took notice — but missed the boat. Hopefully he’s at least getting the message that we’re watching him — and that we ain’t playing. Calling Color of Change a Silicon Valley controlled group is a mis-fire. CoC as JJPers know well is made up of actual people across the nation connected online who speak strongly on issues related to people of color. Sure, Color of Change has protested at Silicon Valley based firm Google. But Color of Change is based in majority-black Oakland CA, many miles from the likes of Facebook and eBay. Hey Bobby — if you need some help finding Oakland vs Palo Alto on a map, holla!

Wired gets it at least although I think they should have done folks a favor and debunked the whole “Silicon Valley controlled” dodge:

The fact that a group dedicated to empowering African-Americans, which devoted so much time to getting Obama elected, has come out strongly against one of the House’s senior African-American members demonstrates how important the issue of net neutrality remains among Obama’s base. In August, Rucker led a protest outside Google headquarters expressing displeasure with the search giant’s net neutrality compromise with Verizon.

A spokesperson for Rush did not immediately return a request for comment on Rucker’s letter to Pelosi.

Update 7:30 p.m. EST: Rep. Rush’s office just issued the following statement:

“I am extremely proud of my decades of service to the people of my district, city, state and nation.  It’s a record that is open and above board for all the world to see.  It’s a record of service to African Americans, the poor, communities of color and minority- and women-owned businesses that is too voluminous to list in the space of this brief statement.  As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee since 1995, I have worked tirelessly and effectively on a vast number of issues.

“My position on those issues as well as my sources of contributions are a matter of public record.  I will not allow the Silicon Valley funded Color of Change.Org group, which purports to “strengthen Black America’s political voice” through the Internet, to call into question my integrity and honesty to lead the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet as its Ranking Member.

“The notion that this Silicon Valley controlled group should have the only word on what is in the best interests of people of color is foolish.  When an organization rents a Silicon Valley glass house, they ought to be careful about throwing stones.”

Um, that last statement is so clownish, it really causes the eyes to roll. Rep. Rush — get it together. Know that black folks are not interested in being red-lined or taken advantage of by your corporate donors. And thus, we may not be interested in re-electing you if you fail to protect the Net. As for Nancy Pelosi, as a San Franciscan, I’m guessing she’s on the right side of this issue and better informed about both Color of Change and the concept of internet innovation than Bobby Rush. My hope is that she stands tall along with Rep. James Clyburn and pushes back on the Congressional Black Caucus if they or some of their corporate-cheese-eating members are not acting in the interests of people of color or an increasingly internet-driven global economy.

Finally, I’d encourage Google not to be evil re: this. The U.S. is already so far behind the rest of the developed world in its internet and mobile infrastructure, dragging down the global economy with it. Act for the world’s (and your) long term benefit — you’ll make more money that way. Don’t turn Net Neutrality into the Subprime Mortgage fiasco of the future…

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