Wednesday, May 09, 2007

'Consumer' Group Fails Smell Test

A shadowy "consumer" group emerged from obscurity today to bleat about the dangers of Net Neutrality. And no sooner had their press release hit the PR Newswire than a chorus of industry apologists began waving it around as proof positive that Net Neutrality is a cancer on the Internet.

That the shills have circled alone should be evidence that something here doesn't quite smell right. That this group is little known to the established consumer groups that form the SavetheInternet.com Coalition should set off every olfactory alarm.

Sock Puppet Alert

Sock Puppet Alert:
Stephen Pociask drops a load on PR Newswire

And so it has. Bob Williams who blogs for the Consumers Union was the first to cry foul.

"We had no idea that Net Neutrality -- the concept of preventing Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination -- would be so devastating to consumers," Williams writes in a sincerity-laced response to the American Consumer Institute's report against Net Neutrality.

"Like nearly every other major consumer group, we here at Consumers Union have been under the impression that Net Neutrality would actually benefit consumers."

The ACI report claims that protecting Net Neutrality would "force millions of Americans to drop their broadband subscriptions." It says that this would amount to $69 billion (Not $68 billion. Not $70 billion. $69 billion!) in lost benefits to consumers.

It was the name of the report's author that caused Williams' nose to twitch:
The contact name on the American Consumer Institute press release was Stephen Pociask. The name rang a bell with us, but we weren't sure why. But a quick Google search jogged our memory. Pociask is a telecommunications industry consultant and a former chief economist for Bell Atlantic, which these days is known as Verizon.
I went to the ACI site to confirm. Pociask's bio was posted by ACI, but surpisingly they failed to mention his work as a telco's chief economist.

How can that be? The American Consumer Institute claims that they do not accept any financial support from corporations. "We only accept assistance from individual consumers and consumer groups," they claim. "The Institute depends on volunteers, particularly those with significant public policy expertise."

I'm curious. Who might these contributing "consumer groups" be? And do THEY accept money from corporations. Also, if ACI isn't paying their "volunteers," who is?

A quick online check reveals that the ACI's Web site is actually registered to the same Stephen Pociask, who still works in the telecom industry as a paid consultant.

ACI describes itself as "an independent consumer organization dedicated to improving the lives of American consumers." But its list of experts includes people with deep ties to the telecommunications industry.

Broadband Reports dug a little further and concluded that reports like ACI's "are ultimately gobbled up by lazy journalists for injection into the broader discourse as objective fact."

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Stephen Pociask is cheap and stupid! But he's a still a Telco man.

Stevo's Big Media backers are undoubtedly paying him big bucks to obfuscate the truth and yet he is so cheap and stupid that he fails to cover his tracks in the process. Amazing! Ask any police detective; he is no different than a common criminal that was easy to catch because at the core, all criminals are stupid first, criminal second.

Any 10th grade, web savvy kid knows not to register a potentially controversial web site in his own name or risk exposure. If he does, he better spring the extra $10 to create a private listing, thereby making it more difficult for the school Vice Principal types to find out who is behind it. Better yet, if it is controversy one intends to create, the kid would go the extra mile, collect a few more returnable pop cans and create a bogus yahoo e-mail account, and buy a pre-paid debit card at Seven-11 to cover the cost....those tracks are even more difficult to trace back to the source. But no, Stevo seems to be more like the common criminal the real detectives love. He’s the type to bill his customer huge consulting fees and spend very little on the actual service he provides, cutting corners to save himself a few bucks along the way. Smoke and mirrors, fluff, confusion, cheap. Wait, that's exactly the same Telco business model!