Commentary: Why it’s time for Texas to show support for net neutrality


Net neutrality is the concept that all Internet content — from videos and websites to news stories and blogs — should be equally accessible to all users.

Strong net neutrality protections prevent internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon from slowing down user speeds, blocking certain websites and charging extra for swifter speeds. As a result, net neutrality strengthens innovation and freedom of expression online. Deep-pocketed internet service providers — or ISPs — can’t slow down the competition or block content they find disagreeable.

What does an absence of net neutrality look like? Mozilla and Golden Frog/Data Foundry spent the past few weeks speaking with Texas residents and business owners about how a net neutrality repeal would affect them.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK: Our Viewpoints page brings the latest commentaries to your feed.

Catherine Crago of the city’s Housing Authority and Austin Pathways says the Austinites she serves depend on net neutrality to unlock opportunity. The residents earn between $11,000 and $15,000 per year. A recent survey revealed that only 5 percent have an internet connection at home. In response, the Housing Authority equipped these residents’ homes with free basic internet, digital literacy training and an earned refurbished device.

“We’re helping residents connect, so that their children can do homework at home, a light bill can be paid or a Social Security balance can be checked without taking time off from work during the day or long hours on the bus,” Crago said. “Equal access to connectivity keeps families employed (and) educated and helps families become self-sufficient, exiting public housing, making room for the next needy family.”

Andrew Nelson of Open Austin, an organization that champions “open government” policies, says a net neutrality rollback would impact the most vulnerable Texans.

“Without [net neutrality], we not only have to worry about the digital divides that exist now, but also the ones that open up from being poor or in a place that ISPs don’t feel the need to invest or compete,” he said.

Net neutrality matters to any Texan who relies on the internet to access journalism, stream videos and stay in touch with friends and family. It’s also particularly critical to Texan startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the internet to reach new customers without meddling from big, established players.

This is why the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to gut existing net neutrality regulations is so dire. The FCC’s plan kicked off in May, and the commission is currently collecting public comments on its proposal. They plan to vote on dismantling net neutrality protections later this year.

If net neutrality still seems like the pet issue of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, consider this: Seventy-six percent of Americans support net neutrality, according to a recent Mozilla-Ipsos poll.

In a country where 34 million people already lack quality internet connectivity, we need to invest in solutions that make the web more open and accessible, not more closed and centralized.

COMMENTARY: How better politics make a stronger and more open Internet.

At Mozilla, we’ve been collecting signatures, comments and voicemails from Americans to share with the FCC. The results have been overwhelming: We’ve already received more than 100,000 signatures, 21,000 comments and 50 hours of voicemails.

So, what can Texans do?

Speak up during the 90-day public comment period, which runs through mid-August. A broad network of individuals and organizations are preparing an official brief to submit to the FCC that will express our concerns with their policy during this open comment period. We’re also engaging with civic leaders and policymakers here in Texas to discuss the importance of net neutrality.

We need to make the coming weeks count — for Texas, all Americans and the internet.

Surman is executive director of Mozilla. Yokubaitis is co-founder and co-CEO of Data Foundry in Austin.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Letters to the editor: April 28, 2018
Letters to the editor: April 28, 2018

The League of Women Voters Austin Area appreciates the Statesman’s coverage of the Austin Charter Review Commission proposal for an Independent Ethics Commission. We encourage its inclusion on the November ballot. The proposed Independent Ethics Commission is similar to the Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission, successfully overseeing...
Commentary: Austin cares about climate change. Now it’s Congress’ turn
Commentary: Austin cares about climate change. Now it’s Congress’ turn

Austin will celebrate Earth Day on April 29 with a festival on the beautiful grounds of Huston-Tillotson University. The many presentations, tables, and booths will recognize the astonishing complexity and richness of our planet’s biology, chemistry, and physics. They will pay tribute to the unique ecosystems of Texas and the Hill Country, the...
Castillo: America is talking about race. How can we not?
Castillo: America is talking about race. How can we not?

I read about an African-American man who, when asked why he dwelled on race so much, responded: “How can I not? It seems to intersect all facets of my life.” That was years ago, but the comment stayed with me because the subject of racial bias lurks in the corners of my mind, informed by my own life experiences. I’m not special &mdash...
Opinion: A new Mitt or the same old weenie?

Right now you’re probably asking yourselves — How is Mitt Romney doing? You know he’s running for the Senate in Utah, right? It’s going to be one of the really big races this fall. OK, possibly not as riveting as the Republican primary in West Virginia, which features a former coal mining executive who hopes voters will be so...
Opinion: ‘Crazy Bernie’ is at it again

There he goes again. Despite the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, including declining rates for minorities, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), affectionately called “crazy Bernie” by some conservative talk show hosts, is again flirting with the idea that the federal government should guarantee every American a job, paying a minimum of $15...
More Stories