No Internet Poll Taxes

My friend and colleague James Rucker wrote a piece on Huffington Post asking a simple question: Why are Some Civil Rights Groups and Leaders on the Wrong Side of Net Neutrality? I left a comment, and this post elaborates on the points I made there.

Participation, Inclusion, Equality

Democratic systems flourish when people participate. Having a voice changes people’s relationship with that system and the system’s relationship with the people.

When everyone can’t participate, the system no longer reflects the values and perspectives of the people it impacts. Barriers to entry create divisions, inequality and unfairness.

El Dorado

The Internet was designed as an egalitarian utopia: the El Dorado of the “good ideas win” ethos. Anyone with access to the net could connect with anyone else. Every idea had an equal opportunity to succeed.

When the Internet was taken hostage by telecommunications companies, they threatened this order. They limited participation online by pricing most low-income communities out of the market, creating the Digital Divide. This practice of exclusion reduced the diversity of thought online. It put the Internet on an identical path to becoming an echo chamber of pale, stale, male attitudes.

Next Stop: Poll Taxes

The redlining was round one, but the next round is more sinister. Telecoms are now considering crushing freedom of expression online by creating Jim Crow-esque poll taxes on content they consider unfit for higher-speed, higher-quality Internet connections. This assault on the freedom by private interests is as wrong now as it has ever been.

This should raise specific concern within the civil rights community. Civil rights organizations fought and won the war against poll taxes over 40 years ago. It’s alarming that they are willing to open the door for this type of discrimination in the 21st century. It’s up to us, the membership, the foot-soldiers of these organizations and of this 21st century civil rights movement, to take a stand against this disgusting discrimination.

Protecting Internet Freedom by ensuring Net Neutrality

The FCC is considering creating rules to protect Internet Freedom. Learn more about the process at Save The Internet. I testified at a hearing in December to voice my strong support of protecting Internet Freedom.

You can join the fight by demanding that Congress work alongside the FCC to protect Internet Freedom and outlaw discrimination by telecom companies.

Sign the petition today.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

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