Free Press and the National Hispanic Media Coalition have joined in the call for a kinder, gentler network neutrality debate.
In an open letter e-mailed to the press and others Monday, the two said that the fact that some civil rights organizations "along with many other groups" get money from cable and phone companies "does not mean those groups are somehow incapable of making their own policy decisions."
Some recent articles and comments have been perceived as painting all civil rights groups as "sell outs" for opposing or otherwise expressing concern over network neutrality regulation. This has ignited an equally strong response. We've also seen groups denounced as radicals, communists and enemies of America for their positions on this question," wrote NHMC President Alex Nogales and Free Press policy director Ben Scott. "We would like to see the debate shift back to the substance of the issues. We will all benefit from a clear and transparent discussion of what this policy is and will do. A commitment to civility will benefit everyone involved."
The rhetoric has gotten heated, particularly after some civil rights groups expressed concerns about the FCC's network neutrality proposal in a letter to the commission. Included in those concerns was that network neutrality regs "might discourage investment, raise prices and potentially widen the digital divide."
Net neutrality backer Public Knowledge angered both the NAACP and the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Council three weeks ago with a blog posting suggesting the groups were being influenced by cable and telcos into supporting policies that hurt their constituences. The civil rights groups asked for, and got an apology and a pledge of a more civil tone.
Mignon Clyburn, the commission's lone minority member, has also been critical of the tone of the debate, saying at the FCC meeting officially launching the network neutrality rulemaking: "Unfortunately, some parties seem to prefer radioactive rhetoric and unseemly and unbecoming tactics. Such an approach may yield headlines, but will not yield positive results with me. So let us permit our better selves to emerge during this process."
Public Knowledge cited that statement in pledging its better self to the dialog.