Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GLAAD Withdraws Support for AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

In a major turnaround in the wake of the scandal which led to the resignation of its former president, Jarrett Barrios, GLAAD today withdrew support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger and, in an even more positive move, the group took a stand in favor of net neutrality.

The controversy that drove Barrios out began with the support of the merger, which ultimately led to charges of Barrios trading favors with now-ousted board member Troup Coronado, who was an AT&T lobbyist. Amid the uproar it became known that GLAAD had also initially written an AT&T-dictated letter to the FCC opposing net neutrality only to withdraw it after complaints from donors and board members. But it was the cover-up about that initial letter -- the implication first that it was forged,and later, that Barrios's assistant wrote it without his knowledge -- that led to Barrios's resignation and the resignation of eight board members (Barrios supporters), including Coronado.

In this new letter to the FCC written by GLAAD's acting president, COO Mike Thompson, GLAAD sends a message that it is putting all of that behind, wiping the slate clean, and taking stands that a gay civil rights group should be taking, underscoring how important net neutrality is to LGBT rights. Kudos to GLAAD's new leadership. Full text of the letter to the FCC commissioners:

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.


Mike Thompson

Acting President

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)