Vice’s Lee Fang recently took a look under the hood of some of these anti-neutrality pieces to see who is paying for them.
For example, there was this May 14 column in the San Francisco Chronicle by former Senator John Sununu and former Congressman Harold Ford, in which the authors argue that Internet service providers should not be regulated as a public utility.
We won’t get into their bizarre, ridiculous contention that regulation is the cause of power outages or water main breaks. Instead, we’ll focus on the fine print at the bottom of their story, which reveals that Sununu and Ford are “honorary co-chairs of Broadband for America, a coalition of 300 Internet consumer advocates, content providers and engineers.”
Broadband for America’s list of members may be long — and it includes the expected culprits like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast — but its list of major financial supporters is quite short, with more than half of its $3.5 million budget coming from the National Cable and Telecom Association, the industry’s main lobbying organization.
Speaking of which, former FCC Chair Michael Powell, who hamstrung net neutrality from the start by failing to recognize ISPs as a public utility, is now the President of the NCTA, and current FCC Chair Tom Wheeler is a former President of the organization.
Can we please take a moment to acknowledge some of the more bizarre entries in the Broadband for America member’s list? An Ohio tile company; an insurance agency network that inexplicably goes by the name Consumers First; some apparently Belgium-based operation called “People & Technology” that doesn’t seem to have any of either; and of course the famed defender of broadband, the Spread Eagle Tavern.
We’re sure these are the Broadband for America members that Ford and Sununu had in mind when penning their NCTA-funded story.
The Vice story also takes issue with an FCC filing against broadband regulation by the American Consumer Institute, which just happens to get a nice slab of funding from a group called MyWireless.org.
Interestingly enough, the name on the tax return for MyWireless is Steve Largent, former Seattle Seahawk and current head of wireless industry lobbying group CTIA.
In another not-at-all-coincidence, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler used to be CEO of the CTIA.
In addition to the bought-and-paid-for stories called out in the Vice piece, we recently received an e-mail about this blog post from industry research firm Precursor that attempts to both counter Netflix’s neutrality arguments and make the inane case that wireless broadband is actual competition for cable ISPs (again: it’s not).
Precursor’s Scott Cleland, who wrote the post, also runs an organization called NetCompetition, which he himself describes as “a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.” And a look at the NetCompetition member page — assuming it’s accurate — includes exactly who you’d expect it to: the CTIA, NCTA, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, AT&T, and others.
So the next time you stumble upon a “Fast lanes are good for consumers” story or read something about the “vast and varied level of competition” in broadband, follow the money trail to see who is paying the author to say these things.