Common Cause (ack, pthui!)* has released its second list of groups which are ostensibly untethered think tanks and public interest organizations, but which are actually controlled and funded by telephone and cable companies. (The first list came out in March.)For instance, one of the groups outed in the latest list is Hands Off the Internet. From the sound of it, you’d think they were net neutrality activists. In fact, it’s just the opposite: HOTI is backed by the telecommunications industry, and it pumps out anti-net-neutrality disinformation:
Unlike real grassroots public-interest groups, it doesn’t have to worry about finances. It has big corporate money behind it:
For example, one print ad attempts to frame the Hands Off the Internet message in pro-consumer terms. “Net neutrality means consumers will be stuck paying more for their Internet access to cover the big online companies’ share.”
If there were ever a case where you can prove the dishonest intent underlying astroturf organizations, it’s this one. If all the telecommunications industry wanted to do was get their message across, they’re the one group in the United States that’s absolutely guaranteed to be able to do it. I mean, they’re the freakin’ telecommunications industry! But that’s not what they did.
In a single month, HOTI spent $693,658 on television advertising alone, according to independent researchers at the Campaign Media Analysis Group. That’s more than $20,000 a day on TV commercials. The group has also been running full-page ads regularly in papers like The Washington Post and Roll Call.
These corporations didn’t invent or build the Internet, or the World Wide Web; but now that there’s real money to be made from it, they want to get a chokehold on it. Their long-term goal is the usual one: to maximize their profits without having to create new value.
If you’re new to this idea, imagine there’s a rule in Monopoly that says you can pay $5,000 to have a rule changed. The first one or two players who got big enough to buy rule changes could guarantee they’d always make money and never take a fall, and that the other players would stay poor and powerless forever.
When it comes to net neutrality and other bandwidth ownership issues, the telecommunications industry has never had the slightest intention of playing fair. They don’t give a damn about democratic institutions or the long-term public good. Like all the other corporations who do astroturf-based propaganda and disinformation campaigns, they think democracy and open public discourse are for little people and losers like you and me.List #1:
Consumers for Cable ChoiceList#2:
Progress and Freedom Foundation
American Legislative Exchange Council
New Millennium Research Council
Frontiers of Freedom
Keep It Local NJ
Internet Innovation Alliance
Hands Off the InternetI’ve said this before, and I desperately wish I weren’t certain that before long I’ll be saying it again: Deceiving us has become an industrial process.
The Future… Faster
Video Access Alliance