GLAAD Withdraws Support for AT&T’s Proposed Merger with T-Mobile

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) withdrawing its support for AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile. In the letter, GLAAD also stated its strong support for, as the organization put it in a news release, “the tenets of net neutrality.”

glaad-logo.pngMike Thompson, GLAAD’s acting president, filed today’s letter after the organization received extensive criticism for the move endorsing the merger, as well as a series of letters involving the FCC’s consideration of net neutrality rules. The move resulted in then-President Jarrett Barrios resigning from the organization and Thompson stepping in as acting president.

Thompson writes that GLAAD “received many expressions of concern about our May 31st letter [supporting the merger] after its filing. We have taken those concerns under consideration, and have over the last several weeks engaged in a much more rigorous and consultative examination of the relative benefits and drawbacks to AT&T’s application than we undertook in advance of the filing of our initial letter. We concluded at the end of this reconsideration process that GLAAD should return to a neutral position regarding AT&T’s merger application.”

In a statement announcing the changed position, Thompson went further, saying that “the explanation used to support this particular merger was not sufficiently consistent with GLAAD’s work to advocate for positive and culture-changing LGBT stories and images in the media.”

Tony Varona, a board member of GLAAD and a strong supporter of net neutrality principles, praised the decision.

Varona — the chair of the GLAAD board’s public policy committee and a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law — wrote in a statement provided to Metro Weekly, “Having written and spoken strongly in favor of net neutrality in my work as a communications law scholar, I am confident that Mike made the right decision both in withdrawing GLAAD’s endorsement of the AT&T merger application and in affirming our support of general net neutrality principles.”

Expanding on the issues, he noted, “We owe the success of much of the LGBT movement’s and GLAAD’s own work to a neutral and nondiscriminatory Internet – one that has disallowed the creation of premium-priced ‘fast lanes’ for certain content and services, relegating to a low-quality ‘slow lane’ not-for-profit content and services that are vital to our community’s survival and quest for full equality.”

The full GLAAD letter to the FCC is below the jump.

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July 13, 2011

The Honorable Julius Genachowski

Chairman, Federal Communications Commission

Re: Proceeding 11-65 Involving the AT&T Merger with T-Mobile

Dear Chairman Genachowski and FCC Commissioners:

I write on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to update you on two important and related matters. First, we wish to withdraw our letter dated May 31, 2011 in support of AT&T’s application to merge with T-Mobile. We remain respectful of the decision of many of our civil rights community allies to submit letters of support for AT&T’s application. We also remain deeply appreciative of AT&T’s various commitments to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans, as exemplified by its excellent employment policies and significant support of LGBT community institutions and initiatives. Nevertheless, we received many expressions of concern about our May 31st letter after its filing. We have taken those concerns under consideration, and have over the last several weeks engaged in a much more rigorous and consultative examination of the relative benefits and drawbacks to AT&T’s application than we undertook in advance of the filing of our initial letter. We concluded at the end of this reconsideration process that GLAAD should return to a neutral position regarding AT&T’s merger application. Please update your records in this proceeding to reflect this modification.

Second, our initial support of the proposed merger of AT&T with T-Mobile has led to some confusion about GLAAD’s position on net neutrality, in part because of AT&T’s own opposition to net neutrality regulation. Please be aware that GLAAD disagrees with AT&T’s position in this area. GLAAD is a strong supporter of the general principle of net neutrality. Although this letter is not specific to any proposed or existing regulatory or legislative standards, we acknowledge that net neutrality is one of the principles most responsible for the Internet’s emergence as the dominant platform for free expression. A nondiscriminatory and neutral Internet has allowed new digital media initiatives and the blogosphere itself to flourish online. Net neutrality has cultivated the plethora of online resources available to otherwise isolated LGBT Americans seeking help with coming out, coping with and countering discrimination, suicide and HIV/AIDS prevention resources, community building and political organizing tools, and general self-expression. GLAAD’s own work has been effective thanks in large part to net neutrality. We hope that you will take these views into account as you consider the various net neutrality proposals before you.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

[signed]

Mike Thompson

Acting President, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

 

CC: Commissioner Michael Copps

Commissioner Robert McDowell

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

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