Is there such a shortage of news around telecom public policy that normally respectable information outlets still fall so easily for astroturf announcements? If you are a Comcast lobbyist you just have to love the official sound of the lead graf in this non-news missive from IDG “news” service, which asserts that “a coalition of seven civil rights groups” is now banding together to fight off the resurrection of network neutrality, mainly in reference to the recent FCC hearing about Comcast’s network management practices.
C’mon. Please. Does anyone really believe anymore that the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, League of Rural Voters, and National Council of Women’s Organizations just happen to have the same viewpoints on net neutrality and cable network management? Or maybe, they are all BFF and on Facebook together, and said “hey, we really need to work together to ensure our voices are heard.”
Or maybe, they are all organizations that get substantial contributions from large telecommunication companies or cable providers, whose legislative agendas just happen to mesh with those of the civil rights groups. (Or maybe they all just use the same policy PR firm, whose prinicpals have been at this a long time.)
While the Bell companies have been somewhat legendary in their Astroturf funding, a little digging shows that some of these new groups are doing a lot of letter-writing on behalf of cable companies. The National Congress of Black Women, for example, is no friend of AT&T’s — but they seem to be well versed in the arcane subject of video franchising laws and now, apparently, in network management as well.
The point here is not to say that telcos and cable companies don’t have an argument; I think there should be some meaningful debate between the actual parties involved (perhaps at a national broadband summit?), where needs of both sides can be discussed and perhaps some common ground found. And this is not meant to belittle the national groups, some of which no doubt perform important work to ensure that civil rights are continually advanced and upheld. But it’s lame to argue, as the “coalition” does, that:
Network management promotes free speech by ensuring that all online content and applications flow freely over the Internet and are not thwarted by a few heavy users of peer-to-peer (”P2P”) file-sharing services.
As the kids say nowadays, that is fail.
Remember, Astroturf only works if you let it work.