A woman joins the #FCCNetNeutrality movement at the Martinez Street Women's Center in May, 2014.
Andrea Figueroa joins the Net Neutrality movement at the Martinez Street Women's Center in May, 2014. Courtesy photo.

San Antonio and Texas lawmakers have the opportunity to support issues affecting local communities of color while also promoting vital tools for local entrepreneurs, musicians, artists and independent media producers. This can be accomplished by standing with our communities against efforts to undermine the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision supporting an open internet.

The arrival and growth of the open internet has been an incredible boon to communities of color. We see this from Latino entrepreneurs who succeed without access to traditional financial tools, to independent content producers from all backgrounds who tell their own stories to defy stereotypes, and to the organizers who amplify the voices of everyday people that challenge discrimination and oppression.

In Texas, for instance, we rely on an open Internet to tell the stories of women and children from behind the walls of family detention facilities in Karnes and Dilley, Texas. With access to mainstream media outlets, these detainees and the organizations working at their side are able to tell their story of unlawful detention and physical mistreatment. This amplifies Texas’ story with the rest of the nation as the debate on human rights and immigration reform unfolds.

Yet just when the FCC took bold steps to secure an open internet through Title II reclassification, Internet Service Providers, like AT&T and Verizon, are doing everything in their power to derail our digital rights.

This time, these corporate gatekeepers are puppeteering Congress to do their dirty work with a sneak attack against the FCC. On June 17, the House Appropriations committee voted 19-31 to pass a funding package with three dangerous provisions to gut net neutrality. These provisions would strip the FCC of the funds needed to enforce Internet protections, as well as delay the implementation of the rules until after all court cases challenging the rules have been settled.

Several members of Congress have taken a stand in support of the FCC’s enforceable open internet rules, including U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-New York). Just two weeks ago, Rep. Serrano introduced an amendment that would have removed the three anti-net neutrality provisions from the appropriations bill.

But our very own local policymakers have remained silent. And others like U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Houston) have even stood in favor of online discrimination by attacking the FCC’s ruling. All the while, 38 % of Texas’ population lacks access to broadband services.

We are standing behind the FCC, from civil rights organizations to media advocacy groups to the tech community. These harmful funding measures introduced in the House would disproportionately impact people of color and underserved populations in Texas and across the United States. Our communities have come to rely on the open internet to educate ourselves, organize for social change, engage in the political process and push back against a history of discrimination and exclusion in traditional media.

Now is the time for our elected officials to demonstrate leadership by supporting the amendment Rep. Serrano introduced, which strikes the three harmful provisions. The FCC open Internet rules codifies the power of the internet to help close gaps in equity that disadvantage communities of color – now it’s up to the people we elected to step up and do their part.

*Featured/top image: Andrea Figueroa  joins the Net Neutrality movement at the Martinez Street Women’s Center in May, 2014. Courtesy photo.  

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Joleen Garcia and Andrea Figueroa for the Martinez Street Women's Center

Joleen Garcia is the Executive Director at Martinez Street Women’s Center (MSWC), which serves San Antonio’s East and Southeast communities, providing information and services that support the active...