MMTC: Shame, Not Regs, Can Protect Net Consumers


Saying the Internet has its own inherent "shaming culture," the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council ) has asked the FCC not to impose "draconian enforcement mechanisms" in its effort to protect consumers.

MMTC, which said it was speaking on behalf of two dozen minority and civil rights groups, said it supported five out the six proposed network neutrality guidelines the FCC is proposing to codify, but has issues with the nondiscrimination principle.

That came in comments filed in the FCC's network neutrality proceeding. The commission had asked for comment on applying its network neutrality rules to managed services that are not delivered to homes over the last-mile "public Internet," and to wireless broadband services, whose network management issues are different from wired due to the technology involved (traffic can almost instantly spike depending on where and when large groups of folks with cell phones and smart phones get together).

As it has in the past, MMTC expressed reservations about applying the net neutrality rules to wireless and said it doesn't want the commission prohibiting "pro-consumer voluntary agreements for the provision of specialized services."

MMTC also took the opportunity to tell the FCC it has a moral duty to ensure that its network neutrality rules, which MMTC has "deep concerns" about, do not "lock into place and perpetuate the vast and current racial disparities in broadband access, adoption, and informed use."

The FCC asked for comment on whether it should limit the kind of specialized services that can be offered. MMTC says no. "By artificially limiting the provision of specialized offerings based on our knowledge about currently available technologies," it argues, "the FCC would threaten innovation. And it could also prevent offerings that can help close the digital divide from ever reaching the marketplace."

Those would include the kind of incubation and incentive programs that benefit the groups MMTC represents.

Under the "sunlight is the best disinfectant" theory, MMTC says the FCC should focus on transparency and disclosure. Which means requiring ISPs to tell subs how they are managing their service. That is when the shaming culture takes over, says MMTC, which is another way of saying marketing forces. "In the few cases of net neutrality violations over the past five years, each and every one was quickly corrected because of the transparent and interactive Internet culture, which forces broadband providers to serve the demands and wants of users or else suffer the penalties of lost subscribers," the group said in its comments.

MMTC, which is trying to force some high-tech companies to give up their employment data, also says the FCC's focus on net neutrality rules is diverting its resources from what it calls "real hurdles" for women and minorities. "As we have repeatedly brought to the FCC's attention, there are thousands of instances of employment discrimination within Silicon Valley-based tech companies that, every day, are trampling on the rights of minorities and women. The FCC cannot continue to turn a blind eye to these discriminatory practices."