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Cable companies astroturfing support against FCC Title II regulation

updated 11:35 am EDT, Fri June 6, 2014

One group hired known false grassroots campaign generator to sink measure

Two groups have written letters to the US Federal Communications Commission, opposing the FCC's new net neutrality proposal -- the American Consumer Institute (ACI), and Broadband for America. Both groups claim to be pro-consumer, and purportedly advocate for more choice and lower costs for subscribers. However, both groups are in fact heavily funded by the telecom industry, and are likely "astroturfing" for the cable industries in their fight against FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's threat of Title II regulation by the FCC, embedded in the net neutrality discussion.

Title II regulation of broadband would apply regulation to ISPs similar to that of utilities, such as water and power. While the ISPs and some governmental supporters believe the FCC may not have this power, if implemented, US broadband access would be more tightly monitored for abuses, predatory pricing, and other anti-consumer measures. Additionally, the ISPs would be subject to independent ombudsmen deciding if the companies were taking advantage of their power over consumers.

The American Consumer Institute's mission statement claims that it was founded because "consumers' interests are not satisfactorily represented by the wide variety of advocacy and consumer organizations that often represent small subsets of consumers and special interests." While it also states that it believes that "excessive taxes and regulations often harm consumers," it wishes to stand in the way of the possibility of Title II regulation and net neutrality.

It said in its letter to the FCC that US citizens have "increased choice" in ISP selection (despite most Americans having little if any actual choice), and called the lawsuit that negated net neutrality protections "a victory for consumers." Most of the American Consumer Institute's funding comes from, lobbyists from the mobile broadband industry and other sources from within the telecommunications industry.

Broadband for America's letter to the FCC demanded that it "categorically rejects" legislation that would make ISPs a utility, and regulated as such. Documents obtained by Vice show that more than half of Broadband for America's funds come from the National Cable and Telecom Association, an unapologetic advocate for cable company interests. Broadband for America has also retained the services of the DCI Group, notorious for spinning off groups claiming wide citizen support for corporate campaigns.

The DCI Group became well known for generating false grassroots organizations to torpedo efforts to tightly regulate Freddie Mac in 2008, in part leading to the global recession. More recently, it has made efforts to stop legislation intended to regulate for-profit colleges. It has also represented ExxonMobil, General Motors, and Myanmar's military leadership. It maintains that its astroturfing efforts maintain "all applicable federal and state laws and regulations."

by MacNN Staff



  1. gprovida

    Junior Member

    Joined: 02-14-06

    Astroturfing or front groups for carriers do NOT represent consumers and all the evidence is showing increased costs, poorer service, continued limited coverage, resistance to new media distribution, etc., and this is to the consumer advantage.

    The only reason regulation is under serious consideration is the miserable track record by cable and carriers, obscene profit margins, and consumer rating them at the bottom of all surveys. They barely pass congress for consumer and voter disdain.

  1. mytdave

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-16-00

    The carriers are a miserable bunch for sure, but regulating them like a public utility is a dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks idea. Are people aware that one of the biggest holdups to increased broadband penetration/distribution is GOVERNMENT regulation?!

    There are thousands of miles of fiber optics that remain dark due to government rules/regulations. Carriers would love to put these to use, but they can't. Some neutrality rules = good, but more regulation = bad. More competition, less regulation, incentives, etc. is the way to go. It always is, and it always works. The Comcast/Time Warner merger should be denied/blocked. Now that would be a positive move by the FCC (& probably the SEC & others). Yet on the other hand, the Sprint/T-Mobile merger should take place, and quickly.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Gruesome. Trickery and shenanigans. This sort of thing should be investigated and declared illegal. I don't care which side of an issue it originates from. If your actions are so repugnant, and your reputation is so abysmal that you have to hide your intentions, you're doing it wrong.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    @mytdave: The fiber you are talking about was funded with tax payer money, if I recall an article here about that. If the carriers were able to afford acquiring use of that fiber, they could not be allowed to pass that cost on to the public. It's harder than you think. The big question is, "what was that fiber installation for?"
    I hope we can agree to disagree on the whole "More competition, less regulation, incentives, etc. is the way to go. It always is, and it always works." subject.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    What I always find particularly galling (or hilarious) about these "regulation is bad, and less regulations is better for consumers" arguments fronted by the big telco ISPs is that it only holds until they find regulation that benefits them.

    When, to give the most obvious example, a municipality wants to install municipal broadband (which when it has been instituted often provides service 10x or more as fast as cable or DSL providers in the area at similar cost), suddenly the ISPs turn to legislation at the state level to prohibit municipalities from installing their own broadband. Because unfair competition, or something.

    Ergo, competition is good, except when there's competition that's better than you, in which case suddenly more regulation prohibiting that competition is good.

    There's a reason, after all, that in the small rural town that my in-laws are from in Japan they have three or four different ISPs offering 100Mbit or faster service, and a few more with slower tiers, while in a much larger US town I have exactly AT&T (maxing out at 18Mbit, with high prices) and one cable company (theoretically offering 50Mbit at much higher prices) to choose from, and plenty of people aren't even that lucky.

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