Elections, the economy, and everybody is up in arms. With Nov. 2 right around the corner,
I can't help but think about how much political capital has been exhausted on the issues of
net neutrality and Title II reclassification over the past few months. Though the future of the
Internet -- and the implementation of the National Broadband Plan -- undergird our efforts
at economic recovery and increased global competitiveness, those "two magic words" have
seemed to steer us off course from our primary intentions because of their politically charged
nature, and uber-divisive implications.
In 2008, then-Candidate Obama was vying for my vote as the next President of the United
States. It was one of the first times that the ever-elusive, ever troublesome phrase "net
neutrality" became a colloquial part of the modern lexicon, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For nearly two years, for those of us who live our lives online, this issue of how Internet
regulations would be framed going forward has consumed far more energy than most of us
would care to admit. In some cases, business partnerships have been splintered, friendships
have been broken, and partisan and ideological lines have been drawn, crossed and broken.
And for what? We're still living under the same regime that we've always had, the Internet is
not broken, the sky has not fallen, the only difference is, we're all a lot angrier. What's all the
fuss been about? Has it done us any good? I don't know, but it's sure made for a good hot
button issue during a contentious election year.
Last week, with the critical midterm elections looming on the horizon, I found hope above
the mire of the net neutrality fray in two filings made before the FCC in its Open Internet
proceeding. One filing was by the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs (NAMDE), the new trade association for people who produce content, applications, infrastructure and a variety of other business models online. The other was by the
Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), joined by 25 other national
organizations, including NAMDE.
At a time that is so critical to the future of our country, these filings made the critical point
that the politics of broadband can and should be checked at the door as we collaborate to
close the digital divide. Two points were abundantly clear in those filings. First, we all believe
in and aspire to preserve the open Internet. It's what our culture thrives on and, frankly, it's
what we're all actually fighting for, though we may at times disagree over how to accomplish
it. Second, in striving to protect the Internet we all know and love, we do not want to thwart
the prospects of success for those who have historically been disadvantaged in business and
economic development - women, people of color, members of low-income communities. The
longer any among us stays disenfranchised, the longer and more severely we will all suffer.
That's really what this is all about isn't it? Creating opportunity and paving a better path
forward for all Americans generally, and the traditionally disadvantaged specifically?
If you put all the self-interested rhetoric and snarky banter aside, I think that's what it all boils
down to. Though a counter-culture insurgence is brewing below America's surface, why can't
we take a moment to pause and focus on creating universal opportunity for all Americans,
eliminating the digital divide that currently exists along social and economic lines in our
country, and helping all our people learn how to harness the power of the Internet to transform
their lives? It should be both our duty and our privilege to move past anger and aggression and
coalesce around the creation of meaningful opportunities that benefit us all.
It's time to put the politics aside, and get down to the business of broadband.