Alliance for Digital Equality
The Alliance for Digital Equality (ADE) is a non-profit front group established to foment opposition to network neutrality by African Americans in key cities nationwide. With the backing of one or more unidentified funding sources, ADE emerged in 2007 under the auspices of helping "consumers to develop local broadband policies." More recently, ADE has taken up the mantle in the fight against the Digital Divide and promotes digital literacy programs in under-served communities.
In its first three years of existence, the Alliance for Digital Equality was almost completely funded by communications giant AT&T. It spent four fifths of its money on paying board members, consultants, lawyers and media companies to push the global communication giant's positions on Internet and wireless regulation. ADE also paid the mayor of Talahassee, John Marks, $86,000 over several years to be a member of its board of advisers. Moreover, ADE ADE parroted AT&T's message opposing tighter price regulation of the Internet. The mayor had also worked as an attorney and consultant for AT&T and BellSouth in the 1990s.
ADE describes itself as a "consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities. ADE also serves as a bridge between policymakers and minority individuals in order to help the public understand how legislative and regulatory policies regarding new technologies can impact and empower their daily lives."
According to its 2007 tax return (Form 990), it had an operating budget of over $2 million, of which no money was allocated for fundraising, nor hiring of employees. In fact, the total compensation for board members exceeded the amount of all program-related expenses.
A largely Black organization, it has taken pains to include Latinos in conspicuous roles on its board of directors and advisory board, along with including some Latinos (and Whites) in "summits" it holds in various cities.
ADE includes as stakeholders a handful of entertainers such as Hill Harper, Malik Yoba and Sheila E to do its bidding on behalf of the corporate opponents of network neutrality, an Internet policy supported by the Obama administration, select commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and innumerable members of the ideologically diverse netroots community. It also includes various telecommunications industry executives of different ethnic backgrounds. Another strong supporter of ADE is the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the historic Black newspaper trade association, which also has strong ties to AT&T. NNPA's current chairman, Danny Bakewell, Sr., is a Los Angeles-based businessman and civic leader who owns the Los Angeles Sentinel as well as (at least) one radio station in Louisiana. ADE has also successfully coalesced various Black local politicians and civic leaders directly or in their roles as officers or members of civic organizations (e.g., local branches of the NAACP, National Urban League, etc.).
ADE was originally named "The Alliance for Equal Access," but changed to its current name at the start of 2008, a fiscal year for which ADE does not seem to have filed a 990 form.
Part of ADE's organizational strategy to influence public opinion of net neutrality within Black communities is to imply or outright claim that this non-discrimination policy will widen the Digital Divide by requiring telecommunications companies such as AT&T, Verizon & Comcast to raise prices on their web services, which in turn will make accessing the Internet that much more difficult for low-wealth communities (i.e., Blacks and Latinos). ADE's significant concerns about bridging the Digital Divide, however, never include challenging how the main gatekeepers to Internet access -- the aforementioned top Internet Service Providers (ISPs) -- have played a role in creating and sustaining the Digital Divide.
Also, part of ADE's apparent strategy to woo Black Americans (and mainstream media) into accepting the premise that an FCC ruling in favor of codifying network neutrality principles in its forthcoming National Broadband Plan is its tactical use of civil rights-era language that paints supporters of this policy as people and institutions with no concern for, or ties to, communities of color, despite the considerable activism of a wide array of politically progressive grassroots and netroots groups of color ignored or mischaracterized by ADE and its cohort.
- AGL Resources, Atlanta Gas Light
- Andrew and Walter Young YMCA
- Bank of America
- BET Networks, a division of Viacom
- Bridging The Digital Divide
- City of Charleston, South Carolina
- City of Newark, New Jersey
- City of Tallahassee, Florida
- Communication Workers of America
- Exxon Mobil
- Houston Public Library System
- Mothers In Action
- Northrop Grumman
- Reach Media, (Tom Joyner)
- San Diego Chargers
- Southern University and A&M College
Board of Directors as of 2010:
- Julius H. Hollis, CEO and Chairman
- Clarence Avant, Vice Chairman Emeritus
- Manny Diaz, Vice Chairman
- Brian Bradford, Board Member
Board of Advisors includes:
Alliance team includes:
- Shirley Franklin, Senior Advisor
1447 Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
Email: info AT adeql.org
Resources and articles
Related SourceWatch articles
- Jeff Burlew The Mayor from AT&T: Alliance for Digital Equality bankrolled by telecom giant, Talahassee.com (The Talahassee Democrat), September 18, 2011
- About page, Alliance for Digital Equality, accessed October 2010.
- ADE CEO and Chairman Julius H. Hollis, Alliance for Digital Equality, accessed October 2010.
- Coalition members, Alliance for Digital Equality, accessed October 2010.
- Leadership, Alliance for Digital Equality, accessed October 2010.
- Liz Rose, "Free Press Responds to Unfounded Attack", Freepress, July 27, 2010.
- Bruce Dixon, "Greedy Telecoms Are Using an African-American Front Group to Fight Net Neutrality", AlterNet, August 23, 2010.