Friday, June 13, 2014

Verizon Says It Wants to Kill Net Neutrality to Help Blind, Deaf, and Disabled People

Lobbyists are telling Congress that the administration's plan to create internet fast lanes and slow lanes is important for Americans with disabilities.

| Fri Jun. 13, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Verizon lobbyists are canvassing Capitol Hill with a curious new argument against net neutrality—it hurts disabled people.

The odd pitch comes as the Obama administration is mulling a plan to scrap net neutrality—the idea that Internet service providers should treat all websites equally—and instead allow ISPs to create Internet "fast lanes" for companies that can afford to pay for speedier service. The proposal, which is under consideration by the Federal Communications Commission, has sparked a massive public outcry, including an "Occupy the FCC" protest and a letter signed by 150 tech companies, including Google, Amazon, and Netflix, opposing the plan.

Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea. But groups representing disabled Americans, including the National Association of the Deaf, the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Association of People with Disabilities are not advocating for this plan. Mark Perriello, the president and CEO of the AAPD, says that this is the "first time" he has heard "these specific talking points."

There's no doubt that blind and deaf people, who use special online services to communicate, need access to zippy Internet. Similarly, smartphone-based medical devices that are popular with disabled people require fast Internet service. Telecom industry lobbyists have argued that, without a fast lane, disabled Americans could get stuck with subpar service as Internet traffic increases. AAPD's Perriello says this rationale could be genuine but seems "convenient."

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