Readers Prefer Net Neutrality to Glenn Beck

A roundup of the week's best ColorLines conversations.

By Channing Kennedy Aug 28, 2010

Welcome to the weekend, readers! We did it! One of our week’s hottest topics was net neutrality; check out Jamilah King’s "Air Has No Prejudice, But Verizon Does, in which she takes apart Verizon’s efforts to discredit its critics, and the net neutrality movement, via a racially inclusive… ad campaign. In the comments, Alton Drew disagrees with Jamilah’s thesis:

First, let us look at revenues. So what if Verizon, the villain in Ms. King’s article, makes billions. It’s simple math. If Verizon serves tens of millions of customers, Verizon is going to make billions of dollars. In addition, if the customers didn’t think Verizon’s service was worth having, Verizon wouldn’t earn billions of dollars in revenue.

Second, Ms. King conveniently leaves out the expenses necessary for Verizon to provide mobile broadband services. Some of these expenses are imposed by the FCC and other government bodies; the same entities that she and other net neutrality proponents would like to impose even more regulations and costs. Ms. King forgets that these additional costs will eventually be passed on to the very African American and Latino consumers she allegedly is concerned with.

Finally, Verizon does not own the airwaves. It has a license from the federal government to use the airways. Verizon also has franchise authority from state and local government for its towers and the lines that connect them.

If this were about prejudice, then far fewer than the 64% of African Americans currently using cell phones to access the Internet would be able to do so.

diana13 pushes back on Alton and puts a human face on the issue:

… Many Native communities out here don’t have broadband infrastructure, and definitely not the money to afford it. Sometimes they rely on their phones for internet access (although only a few have it) or have to travel up to 20 miles to the local library or coffeeshop to get online.

This makes it really difficult for high school students, especially, who are starting to write research papers and use the internet as their main resource. Some teachers have stopped requiring research-based home assignments because students can’t complete them outside of school. It’s really affecting a lot of people.

It’s not fair to ask young students to choose between getting their homework done at home (for an insane amount of money) or biking 20 miles to the nearest library before it closes. That’s not a choice.

The internet is quickly becoming an essential tool. Not only for social interaction (some people in the communities we work with depend on the internet to talk to their families out of the country and state) but for essential things like homework, applying for government services, getting accurate health information and forms and applying for government services like Social Security.

No one needs to convince our communities that affordable internet access (wireless or wired) is important.They know that these are public structures that Verizon and other telecom companies are trying to privatize. And as they increase the cost of their services, our communities know that this means they’ll be pushed out of access to a tool that is becoming more and more essential.

I encourage some of the readers to visit poor areas of their states (rural or urban) and see what "choices" people have when it comes to getting basic services.

And Alexismontex encourages a broader view:

The more this is framed as a "consumer" issue, the more dangerous this debate becomes. Google just announced this week that it’s launching a new telephone service to compete with Skype. Thinking in purely innovative terms, that’s where the future is. And you mean to tell me this isn’t a basic communication rights issue? The Internet is fast becoming THE way to be heard and get info in our country. Let’s not sell it off to private companies.

It’s no surprise that people love talking about Glenn Beck. Yesterday, Kai Wright’s "Glenn Beck’s MLK Dream is Perverse, But What’s Our Vision? asked a tough question of those condemning Beck’s efforts to co-opt of MLK’s legacy: how true is our own movement being to that same legacy? ColorLines contributor Victor Goode, who recently penned "The Roots of the GOP’s Birth Citizenship Mania," adds to the list of King’s since-neglected causes.

Beck claims that his rally is to "honor our troops" … as if some event has transpired that has dishonored them. But there he may have a point. Every American soldier takes an oath to defend the nation and the constitution, and thrusting them into a war against Iraq without the constitutionally required declaration by Congress might very well qualify as dishonor.

But rallies wont cure that problem. Only bringing them home from these wars of empire can truly place the military back into its role of "defending the constitution."

Beck also fails to note King’s evolving awareness of the costs to democracy of American militarism that led in 1965 to his famous denunciation of the Vietnam war.

Honoring our troops would be to once again have them stand down from these wars of American empire and return to their role as defenders of the nation against the aggression of other nations. It would also fulfill King’s dream that America’s economic might could once again be focused on the real enemies of poverty, joblessness and discrimination.

On the ColorLines Facebook page, Tabitha Hudson wants us to go further: In the same vein, on Naima Ramos-Chapman’s post from earlier in the week, "Glenn Beck Turns MLK’s Dream to Nightmare on Anniversary," John reminds us that perceptions of Beck aren’t universal. For many households, he’s the only person on TV talking about Black history.

Are you serious??!?? I know you haven’t watched Beck in the past year. I am white and raising a black child, we have been watching Beck because he has been discussing black history, real history, honoring their sacrifices and roles. So whites can’t share the beliefs MLK had? Isn’t that in complete opposition to judging a person by their character and not their skin color? Why can’t whites believe in MLK’s message and honor it? That sounds racist to me. Maybe you should watch him and learn something; I have learned GREAT forgotten/erased history that makes me proud to be an American. I am also very proud my "black" son is learning this history. I haven’t seen the black community leaders teaching this history, they try to keep blacks as victims because it helps raise money. Glen Beck is saying claim your "Rightful" place in history.

And finally, on Michelle Chen’s "ACLU Confronts Denver Prison’s Abusive Strip Searches," commenter Guest says that:

Many of the women have complained to me about that particular method of being searched, experience flashbacks of a traumatic event in their past, and are afraid of losing what few privileges they have. If a prisoner refuses to comply with the search procedure, they are handcuffed, taken to ad seg, and will receive a disciplinary case for refusing to obey a lawful order.

Many of the non-uniform female staff refuse to do the search at all. It wasn’t right from the beginning, and now maybe it will be stopped all together. One can only hope.

Don’t forget you can join the conversation yourself, right here at and on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Youtube.