ISPs Create Fake Grassroots Groups To Fight Net Neutrality

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Right on cue, the big corporations who stand to lose the most from the treatment of Internet connectivity as a public utility are allegedly creating “grassroots” organizations that are really fronts for expensive lobbying operations. For example, one organization, Broadband for America, is funded almost entirely by the National Cable and Telecom Association. Vice has an interesting expose on the whole rigmarole.

Writes Lee Fang regarding another “consumer advocacy” group, ACI:

Why would a self-professed consumer advocacy group not only oppose moving toward net neutrality but claim that America’s broadband market—one of the slowest, most expensive in the industrialized world with fewer than three choices in many parts of the country—is so great?Perhaps because ACI, like Broadband for America, is financed by an ISP lobby group. Annual tax returns show that a foundation controlled by lobbyists from the cell phone industry, called MyWireless.org, has contributed to ACI since 2010.

Thus far the net neutrality has turned out to be a fight between big ISPs and geeks with consumers either confused or ignorant of the ramifications of Internet fast lanes and the like. If general-purpose networking and computing are taken over by corporate interests it will cause ripple effect up and down the net that could raise rates, prevent competition, and destroy Internet freedom. Jon Oliver’s own rant on the subject garnered 45,000 responses to the FCC ruling and, given the energy of the nerd classes, I suspect this will be shut down in the same way PIPA and SOPA saw the wrath of Reddit.

The bottom line is that corporations want to charge more for access to their infrastructure. This is not an effort to enable higher speeds for consumers nor is it a ploy to ensure valuable episodes of Orange Is The New Black don’t go unwatched. It’s a money play and it’s an effort to jack up rates on what is essentially a commodity product. Big players like Google are already horning in on ISP territory and with mobile carriers like T-Mobile treating the airwaves like an all-you-can-eat roaming smorgasbord, there is little hope for the entrenched companies who want someone else to pay for their router maintenance. It make look like a consumer issue but it’s really a board room issue.

ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon can Astroturf all they want, but one thing holds true: they are all out to milk the consumer for all they’re worth by offering high-cost, slow Internet feeds to people who don’t know any better. We’ve ridden far past the era of independent Internet providers but that doesn’t mean we need to be taken for a ride.