Preserving an open internet is important to ensure that
people of color and those without money or influence don’t lose
a pathway to economic success.
Congress must create new net neutrality legislation
that empower new entrants to the marketplace prohibit
gatekeeping that stops innovation.
Access to Internet content without your cable or mobile
phone company deciding what sites you can visit, also known as
net neutrality, is now over thanks to Trump’s Federal
Communications Commission (FCC), and his acolyte Chair Ajit
Pai’s efforts to weaken consumer protections and allow
large cable and phone companies to profit off the backs of the
masses isn’t surprising, it’s predictable. And they fall right in
line with Trump’s determination to roll back, shed, gut and
undermine any rule or policy associated with the Obama
Administration. It only took Mr. Pai’s FCC a few months to cut
off elderly and poor people’s access to affordable mobile devices
and to roll back Obama-era rules to ban abuses in prison
Now Trump’s FCC has voted ended net neutrality, the only
policy ensuring equal access to the Internet for all of
Protecting corporations appears to be a top priority for
the Trump Administration. Whether it’s the tax bill filled with
giveaways to America’s wealthiest or undermining quality,
affordable health care coverage to benefit insurance companies,
Trump has shown a careless disregard for our most vulnerable. The
situation is no different here. Net neutrality probably has the
biggest implications for American economic mobility than any
other attack we’ve seen from him thus far.
Whether intentional or not, the FCC’s actions will cut off
internet economy participation, consistent with a long, sad
history of negative impacts on communications infrastructure for
communities of color.
worked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions as his counsel on
the Senate Judiciary Committee, and clearly he’s come into this
position with a “free market” agenda
hurt consumers, creators and entrepreneurs alike
Pai’s proposal would choke off access to the most powerful tool
people of color have in the fight against poverty,
and would eliminate strict consumer privacy
Worse, it leaves the door wide open
for Comcast or Verizon to control what sites are open or closed
to the public.
Ending net neutrality will kill the economic potential of
nearly half of America’s population. Low barriers to business
entry will disappear. Black Latino wealth numbers already
decimated by the Great Recession will only get worse. And, we’ll
have to welcome back the gatekeepers.
How will women and minorities fare when left to the chummy
old boy’s club? Venture capital funding, already coming in at a
slow-drip pace for entrepreneurs of color, will all but
Even weakening net neutrality rules
will reinforce anti-meritocracy. We must ensure that all people
are full participants in every aspect of media, tech, and
A vital tool for economic opportunity and for fighting
People of color have no reason to trust that
will act against their own business
interests. We have no choice but to seek long-term solutions that
protect net neutrality from the whims and wishes of
The time has come for Congress to move legislation that
creates new net neutrality laws designed to grow along with
future technologies. These measures should ensure a competitive
marketplace that empowers new entrants and prohibits gatekeeping
that strangles future innovation. We also need regulatory regimes
that encourage the fastest possible deployment of new
technologies to give businesses and consumers new ways to receive
broadband services. Competition will keep everyone honest.
The same companies that control access to the internet also
own most of the content. How is it possible for any independent
company to expect to be treated fairly when the company’s
competitors control access to the company’s customers? Do we
really rely on Comcast to choose high internet speed for an
online series they don’t own over streaming an NBC program they
Modern movements for change started online. From the Arab
Spring in 2012, to the launch of the 21st century Civil Rights
Movement through #BlackLivesMatter, to the rise of #WaterIsLife
on indigenous lands, the Internet has provided people of color
with pathways to driving monumental social change against hate.
More than that, it’s given our communities a leg up into
entrepreneurship and financial stability.
Imagine a world without the viral necessity of Black
Twitter, or one where creators like AFROPunk can’t reach their
global following. Or think of a world where critical videos from
online news outlets like Now This or Vice, outlets that often
expose untold narratives, no longer stream clearly on our
Facebook walls. This is a world free of diverse, creative talents
that make the Internet a special place for people of color and
those without money or influence to find economic success.
Without immediate Congressional action, that sad world is
destined to become our reality.
Brian Woolfolk is the founding executive director of Full
Color Future, a new thinktank and advocacy organization committed
to changing the narrative about people of color in media, tech
and innovation. With over 20 years of Hill experience, Brian
served as Democratic Counsel on the US House Judiciary Committee
and advised Committee Members on the Telecommunications Act,
media ownership diversity, and free speech issues.
Full Color Future has received funding from tech
companies and foundations supporting net neutrality. Learn
more about Full Color Future at
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.