Caribbean leaders need to advocate for net neutrality

Caribbean leaders need to advocate for net neutrality
After a meeting voting to end net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai answers a question from a reporter, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, in Washington.
Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin

The Caribbean needs to rally behind net neutrality.

An online petition [] is hoping to garner support from the Caribbean community for net neutrality. Maryland-based advocate Taylor Jenkins, who runs the platform Humans of the Caribbean Diaspora, says if the restoration of net neutrality fails, it will have grave consequences on the ways money and access to information is received from and by region, he said.

“The general issue on what it means for the Caribbean community, by and large, is it will affect the ways we use online, and all the remittances that are sent back that can potentially be at risk,” said Jenkins.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced net neutrality rules in 2015 to protect free Internet and prevent broadband companies from slowing down and charging users and providers for additional services. Last month commissioners voted to repeal it in a 3-2 vote.

Online services that allow their users to make money transfers, such as Western Union or Paypal, will greatly affect how remittances are sent from people living in the states to their families back in the Caribbean, said Jenkins. He adds that since the region is a central location for these type of payments, it is going to be greatly affected if broadband companies are given full control on what type of speed service their users are given.

“It is extremely impactful because looking at previous data as far as 2015 that receive remittances, most are coming from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, going to many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean regions,” said Jenkins.

He adds the significance of the region as a huge recipient of money transfers alone should grab the attention of Caribbean people stateside, and even bring light to how local business may be shaped.

“It’s insane how much money we give back home to families,” he said. “And even people who are starting business — the way they’ll keep the connection is going to be huge. Because how do you get payments from Paypal or Western Union if you’re an international designer?”

As of last week the petition had over 12,000 signatures and counting, and Jenkins hopes that number can reach 15,000 by the end date of Jan. 19. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey filed a Congressional Review Act vote, backed by over 26 other senators, to reinstate the Open Internet order, which would make the FCC maintain the existing rules.

Jenkins says that the Caribbean community needs to mobilize and show their support for the reinstatement of a free Internet, because it will have a big impact on the Diaspora globally.

“I’m reaching out to Congressmen and letting them know and getting more support from Caribbean organizations, locally and nationally to advocate for this,” he said. “The Carib here is definitely behind this because we have a stake in this.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]

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