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Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-can't-trust-huge-corporations-who-can-you-trust dept.
An anonymous reader sends a report from Vice which alleges that a trade group for internet service providers is building support for its crusade against net neutrality by funding opinion pieces and letters that masquerade as legitimate public sentiment. 'A disclosure obtained by VICE from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade group for ISPs, shows that the bulk of Broadband for America's recent $3.5 million budget is funded through a $2 million donation from NCTA. Last month, Broadband for America wrote a letter to the FCC bluntly demanding that the agency "categorically reject" any effort toward designating broadband as a public utility. It wasn't signed by any internet consumer advocates, as the Sununu-Ford letter suggests. The signatures on the letter reads like a who's who of ISP industry presidents and CEOs, including AT&T's Randall Stephenson, Cox Communications' Patrick Esser, NCTA president (and former FCC commissioner) Michael Powell, Verizon's Lowell McAdam, and Comcast's Brian Roberts. Notably, Broadband for America's most recent tax filing shows that it retained the DCI Group, an infamous lobbying firm that specializes in creating fake citizen groups on behalf of corporate campaigns.'
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Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality

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  • Re:They all do this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bev_tech_rob (313485) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:20AM (#47178677)
    Astroturfing should be outlawed as a form of fraud IMO...
  • by MacTO (1161105) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:28AM (#47178739)

    As long as it is clear who is making these claims against net neutrality, there is nothing terribly wrong with it.

    There are, of course, issues. There are issues with politicians and governmental bodies refusing to listen to certain groups because of conflict of interest or inherent bodies (e.g. funding or other industry ties). There are issues with the industry having an inequitable amount of funding to pursue lobbying. (In essence, they are using revenues generated by consumers to lobby against the interests of consumers.)

    But as long as it is clear where the message is coming from, such as the composition of a group's membership and where it obtains its funding, they have as much right to present their perspective as anyone else. It is really up to the recipient of these letters to assess the validity of the claims based upon the evidence and their independence. (For instance, I would consider any survey presented by an industry group to be heavily biased since the wording of such surveys or their target demographic can distort the results.)

  • Re:They all do this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:34AM (#47178787)
    With all the bullshit they are surrounded by, is it any wonder the American people make such poor choices? Whenever someone blames the voters for the state of the union, this is the stuff I think of.
  • Re:They all do this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:35AM (#47178797)

    It is justified under Free Speech, but there is no concern for equality: if you have more money, your voice (or the people you pay to spread "your voice") is much more likely affect change. In my opinion, this is wrong.

    Who gets to decide then which speech is proper and which speech isn't proper? Should we have a "ministry of truth" that determines "for the people" what speech is astroturfing and what speech is not? Should churches and unions be allowed to spend money to speak nationally on political, moral, or financial matters? Should newspapers and media companies, being wealthy corporations themselves, be allowed to engage in political speech? What about citizens grouping together, pooling their money, and then using the pooled money to speak? What organizational form should that take, if not a corporation (usually not-for-profit)?

    I certainly do not want a political system in which only a few kinds of organizations (media companies, churches, unions?) have the right to engage in large scale political speech while everybody else merely has the right to vent in forums, if that. People like you complain a lot, but you don't have a good answer.

  • by dinfinity (2300094) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:51AM (#47178939)

    Well, the story here is that things like "Broadband for America, a coalition of 300 Internet consumer advocates, content providers and engineers" don't sound like "Broadband of America, an organization sponsored mostly by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and the likes."

    Attaching the former is disingenuous, as it mischaracterizes the organisation as being some kind of collective of consumer-oriented institutes. Of course, technically it doesn't say that, but most people are too oblivious to read between the lines of such a statement. So clearly, people become misinformed due to tactics such as these. What do you suggest we do to fix this misinformation?

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:12AM (#47179683)

    forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

    Corporations aren't ~allowed~ to consider "the greater good" over that profit,

    Except that CEOs can do practically ANYTHING and justify it as "increasing wealth for the share-holders".

    Here we go:
    1) Fire everyone, sell everything, liquidate like it's 1999. This increases the bottom-line of the company and makes it easy to increase the wealth of the shareholders (effectively removing the risk of not knowing what the stock is worth, do all that liquidation and you have a definite value the stock can be compared against)

    2) Go into debt, hire a shit-ton of scientists, designers, artist, whoever to invest in the product so that next year/decade they'll be able to corner the market, bring in more money, and increase wealth for the shareholders.

    3) Dodge all taxes as it leaves more money for the shareholders

    4) Pay all the taxes as it removes the risk of the government coming in a busting up the company, shattering the wealth of the shareholders.

    5) Pissing it all away on hookers and blow. "Hey, I'm a high-powered businessman, I make you the money. Walk away, leave me in charge, and you'll get your quarterly gains (as long as the economy is still booming)."

    6) Axing all of the top skill and people with connections in the business. They're just doing lines of blow. It's not like we really need that guy whose mother is running the government regulator, I'm sure she'll be professional. Removing this overhead increases wealth for the shareholders.

    All of that happens and in some cases is even the smart thing to do. If you think corporations are somehow LEGALLY REQUIRED to curb-stomp you, then you have no flipping clue what happens in the business world.

  • Re:They all do this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:22PM (#47180417)
    Just make politicians have to wear patches on their suits indicating who their donors are. NASCAR style.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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