July 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm EDT | by Phil Reese
GLAAD reverses position on AT&T/T-Mobile merger; endorses ‘net neutrality’

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is attempting to move on and make atonement after a June scandal that saw the resignation of much of the organizations’ Board of Directors and the group’s leader Jarrett Barrios.

The organization has submitted letters to the Federal Communications Commission asking to have their endorsement of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger removed from the record — returning their position to neutral on the merger — and coming out in favor of the principle of ‘net neutrality.’

The organization came under scrutiny after earlier this year sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission endorsing the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile; a deal that, if approved, will create the nation’s largest phone provider. Confusion over the group’s curious endorsement led to examination of other strange filings with the FCC the group has made on behalf of AT&T over the course of several years.

Attention became focused on a several 2009 letters sent to the FCC signed by Barrios on behalf of AT&T apparently endorsing the company’s position against the principal of ‘net neutrality’ which advocates that internet providers should not censor content coming from competing networks, nor impede its customers from accessing content from competing networks through pay walls, domain blocking or other obstacles. No major American telecom company has as of yet put in place any policies that would impede access, though many have made statements in favor of putting such restrictions up, arguing that the increased revenue from doing so would fund expansion of broadband networks into jurisdictions that had previously not had access.

The 2009 FCC letter was crafted from ‘suggested language’ sent from AT&T to GLAAD and several other LGBT and progressive non-profits, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Equality California. Barrios claimed in June the letter had been sent due to a clerical error, and GLAAD did send a follow-up letter to the FCC in January 2010 asking the agency to strike the letter from record. However, the controversy over the incidents brought scrutiny to organizational actions and individuals working with several of the organizations, including a former AT&T executive, Troup Coronado, with connections to several of the organizations involved, including GLAAD. Coronado served on the Board of Directors at GLAAD.

With today’s letter, GLADD will seek to put this matter behind them, and redirect attention to their programming as a media watchdog group. Last month GLAAD successfully convinced 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan to publicly apologize for making violent, anti-gay remarks, and brought the actor together with LGBT community leaders and at risk youth in an effort to educate the comedian, and generate greater awareness for efforts seeking to challenge anti-gay hate speech head-on.

“A rigorous review process considered GLAAD’s unique mission,” Acting President Mike Thompson said in a statement announcing the letter, “and concluded that while AT&T has a strong record of support for the LGBT community, 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,”

Read the full letter here: FCC_Letter_07132011


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