When 'Civil Rights Groups' Become Paid ISP Lobbyists

Posted on March 4, 2008 - 8:27am.

from: Broadband Reports

When 'Civil Rights Groups' Become Paid ISP Lobbyists
And the technology press doesn't notice...
09:42AM Monday Mar 03 2008 by Karl

One of the most effective ways the phone companies have gotten what they want politically over the years is to fake the fact that they have consumer support. This is done via PR, farmed think tank science, hired bloggers (who don't allow comments), fake consumer groups and astroturf (fake grass roots) campaigns. Such efforts can make it appear that anti-consumer positions -- such as cherry picking broadband deployment or elimination of consumer protection laws -- have broad consumer support.

Another tool at their disposal is the "co-opting" of existing groups. Groups receive significant sums of money from these providers, and regurgitate their positions on political matters as a favor. For example Verizon donates to (pdf) the National Association For the Deaf. They also wrote NAD's technology primer, which is jam-packed with phone industry talking points on issues like local loop unbundling. NAD in turn parrots support for Verizon policy -- whether or not it harms their constituents -- who trust NAD's explanation of the complicated technological debate.

With a lot of money at stake, both cable and phone providers are pulling out all the stops in the network neutrality debate. While there's all manner of political activist groups involved in the fight, most make their financial motivations clear. But many conflicted groups who are seen as legitimate social activists don't -- which is why we're not too surprised to see a group of supposed "civil rights groups" come out against network neutrality, making some painfully specious arguments in the process:

"Regulations prohibiting network management risk undermining free speech on the Internet by allowing P2P traffic to overwhelm the network and prevent non-P2P traffic from reaching its destination," the coalition said in its filing. "The effective prioritization of P2P traffic would represent an altogether new type of 'back of the bus' second-class status for our speech on broadband networks -- and ought to be resoundingly rejected."

These groups are so busy pleasing donors, they apparently don't much care if their arguments actually make any sense, in this case associating the desire for a content-agnostic Internet with racism and oppression of free speech. Compacting the problem, when the technology press reports on such stories, they apparently don't feel the need to mention the conflict of Interest. The result is news stories that inform the less technical that decidedly anti-consumer policies (like ISP throttling of competing content) might not be such a bad idea.

( categories: Astroturf / Front Group )