Black Smartphone Users Have a Lot to Lose
As telecom companies rush to consolidate, people of color may get disconnected
Do you use your cell phone to check email, post to Twitter or otherwise get online? If so, the investigation of the telecommunications industry that Colorlines published this week is a must-read.
Between the in-depth reporting and the easy-to-grasp infographics, the article provides the clear explanation that racial justice organizations working on telecom issues have been waiting for. News Editor Jamilah King lays out the "why" behind the often repeated stats about Black and Latino communities' disproportionate reliance on our cell phones to access the Internet. She also explains what motivates the competing forces facing off on net neutrality (oh, and what "net neutrality" even means), and how this policy fight has unfolded in the past four decades.
Engaging in this set of issues has been a priority at ColorOfChange for quite a while. In September, nearly 53,000 of our members signed a petition to stop the proposed AT&T and T-Mobile merger. The petition, aimed at Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Julius Genachowski, urged the agency to scrutinize claims made by AT&T that the deal would be good for competition, create jobs, and lower prices.
In reality, as ColorOfChange has communicated throughout the campaign, a merger of the second and fourth largest mobile carriers would do none of those things. Instead, it would eliminate T-Mobile, one of the most affordable cellular providers, and give remaining companies license to raise their prices because customers would have no other options. The merger would also reduce incentive for cellular providers to invest in improving their services and developing new technologies. Lastly, the merger would seriously threaten net neutrality since two companies that don't want an open Internet (AT&T and Verizon) would dominate wireless access.
The ColorOfChange community also mobilized when 76 Democrats (with close ties to the mobile giants) in the House of Representatives came out in support of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. More than 44,000 of our members signed a petition urging those elected officials to rescind their support.
Our members' and allies' tireless activism has led to several victories lately. The FCC report released late last month indicates that agency now also understand what's at risk. We applauded the news when the Department of Justice told the telecom giants it would stand with consumers against the monopoly move and reject the deal. And our Louisiana members succeeded in convincing a key Senate Democrat to do the right thing during a recent vote when, once again, the Internet's future seemed up for grabs.
Central to these wins is the growing community -- of which ColorOfChange is a part -- creating a new path forward after decades of deregulation and attempts at corporate consolidation. It's a fight that requires that more of us learn how to take control over how we communicate and build power as consumers. Reading King's article and joining ColorOfChange's ongoing work for an open Internet are important first steps.