Over 700 Minnesotans personally attended a Townhall on the future of the Internet, with 1,100 more watching online.
Originally published at the Center for Media Justice’s Media Action Grassroots Network.
Minneapolis, MN — From a Latino leader in South Minneapolis, to a Seneca Nation elder, to a South Minneapolis hip-hop artist and organizer, to a rural newspaper editor, more than 700 Minnesotans demonstrated that the future of the Internet matters during an August 19th, 2010 Townhall with FCC Commissioners Copps and Clyburn—while 1,100 more watched online through a live feed by the Uptake MN.
(Click to watch recording)
A welcome by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie set the tone, “…I know from my day-to-day activities that the Internet is essential for business development and civic participation. An open Internet provides Minnesotans with vital information about starting a business, registering to vote, who is on the ballot and so much more.”
This was within the first five minutes.
Over the course of the next three hours, more than 60 community members offered two-minutes testimonies to the FCC Commissioners on issues ranging from rural access to affordable urban service. Using powerful first-person narratives, they spoke to the direct role the Internet plays in securing jobs, finishing college degrees, ordering stock for their business and maintaining connections with family members. Coupled with a deep understanding of the importance of access, the testimonies (nearly across the board) also called on the FCC to regulate the “most powerful communication systems” of our time.
Simultaneous Spanish translation and American Sign Language, as well as wireless mics (for the wheel-chair bound)—ensured a wide range of people were able to speak directly to the Commissioners in their own voices. The MN Townhall on the ‘Future of the Internet’ was a partnership between the Center for Media Justice, the Main Street Project and Free Press who wanted to provide an opportunity for those outside of Washington to share their ideas, experiences and concerns with the FCC.
It's not often that a large, Minneapolis high school is packed beyond fire-code—especially for a conversation about the Internet, of all things. Yet it should come as no surprise. Though the favored topic of the night was “net neutrality,” (the principle that the Internet should remain free of interference from service providers)—the conversation was down-to-earth, or what you might call “real talk" i.e. an Open Internet is essential for affordable housing, quality public education, full employment and decent healthcare. No bits, no bytes—zero wonk. I certainly appreciated it, and if the multiple standing ovations, shout-outs, and hollers of support from the auditorium were any indication—the audience did too!
At the Center for Media Justice and our signature project MAG-Net—we believe that media policy needs to be people-centered and community-based. This means ensuring the Net Neutrality debate is grounded in the stories of every-day people who aren’t usually sitting at the decision-making table. The result of which, is an approach to Internet policy that calls for more than access, it demands justice.
Whether part of the actual audience or the steady stream of live "Tweets," it’s obvious this “people-centered approach” pumped new energy into the discussion, demonstrated a high-degree of unity and affirmed what we’ve been saying all along, "this debate ain't only for Telcos and nerds."