Monday, May 29, 2006

Times Gets Net Neutrality Right, Again

In their second editorial in less than a month, the New York Times gets it right on Net Neutrality. They join the ranks of other major US dailies — including the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times and Houston Chronicle — that have come out in support of Internet freedom.

“The World Wide Web is the most democratic mass medium there has ever been,” writes Adam Cohen in today’s Times:

Freedom of the press, as the saying goes, belongs only to those who own one. Radio and television are controlled by those rich enough to buy a broadcast license. But anyone with an Internet-connected computer can reach out to a potential audience of billions.

Cohen writes that the Web was invented using open, decentralized architecture in a way “that allowed anyone with a computer to connect to it and begin receiving and sending information.”

This network neutrality allows for the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce and communication. Cohen writes that the blogging phenomenon is possible because individuals can create Web sites that can be seen by anyone with Internet access. He adds:

The companies fighting net neutrality have been waging a misleading campaign, with the slogan “hands off the Internet,” that tries to look like a grass-roots effort to protect the Internet in its current form. What they actually favor is stopping the government from protecting the Internet, so they can get their own hands on it.

Today’s Times’ commentary echoes an earlier editorial, which stated that the democratic Internet “would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate.”

Cohen writes that Net Neutrality forces have been gaining strength:

One group,, says it has collected more than 700,000 signatures on a petition. Last week, a bipartisan bill favoring net neutrality, sponsored by James Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, won a surprisingly lopsided vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Sir Tim [Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web] argues that service providers may be hurting themselves by pushing for tiered pricing. The Internet’s extraordinary growth has been fueled by the limitless vistas the Web offers surfers, bloggers and downloaders. Customers who are used to the robust, democratic Web may not pay for one that is restricted to wealthy corporate content providers.

“That’s not what we call Internet at all,” says Sir Tim. “That’s what we call cable TV.”

And that’s why the telcos and their front groups want to seize control of the Web — to net billions of dollars as the new video czars, at the expense of everyone else.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Telcos Are Calling You

A fellow blogger at p2p blog just forwarded this tidbit on the latest telco-fueled effort to scare Americans into siding with AT&T against Net Neutrality. Be on the alert for friendly callers bearing lies about increased consumer costs.

Here’s what “k0″ had to report about this latest telco effort to deceive customers:

I just got a phone call by a nice lady that tried to persuade me that net neutrality is bad. Because there is an internet price increase coming really really soon, and Google wants me to pay for it.

The dialog went something like this:

(obligatory awkward call center pause)

Her: “Hello, I’m calling from a non profit organization called TV 4 US, and we call consumers about an upcoming internet price hike. The big internet companies, like, (small pause) Microsoft want you to pay for that. Do you think that is fair?”

Me, confused: “Uhm, what are you calling about?”

Her: “The internet is going to be more expensive, because big companies like Microsoft and Google are wasting all our bandwidth. Do you think consumers should pay for that? Or should the big companies that are wasting the bandwidth pay for that?”

At which point I tried to argue that companies use bandwidth because consumers use their services, but of course she was trained to end her call as soon as she would hit a road block.

I managed to get a little bit of information about her non profit before she hung up tho: TV 4 US apparently doesn’t have a website. Maybe they want to save some of that precious bandwidth before Google and Microsoft are gonna waste it all. But they can be reached at 888-346-1400. Just in case you want to tell them what you think about dumbing down policy issues.

Indeed, “TV 4 US” (they do have a Web site) is yet another AT&T-backed front group that is burning through telco cash to spread the lie that Net Neutrality will cost consumers.

What’s really costing consumers isn’t Net Neutrality but the phone companies’ multi-million-dollar campaign to kill it. Companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have spent tens of millions of dollars on canned phone calls, advertisements, DC lobbyists and phony front groups to squash our genuine grassroots effort.

Where do you think they get that money? That’s right. A portion of your phone bill goes towards creating campaigns that are designed to deceive consumers into acting against their best interests.

For more on the telco fictions, check out this newly released report from Free Press, Consumer Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Lie of the Week

Don't be fooled. Web sites like "Hands Off The Internet" are industry front groups -- the products of high-priced consultants bought and paid for by the cable and telephone industry. Companies like AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth and their trade associations are spending millions every week to mislead and misinform the American public.

Their latest attempt to hoodwink Internet users is a cutesy cartoon at -- a clever piece of industry propaganda that is riddled with half-truths and outright lies.

The animation is an example of Stephen Colbert's "truthiness" in action. Telco giants cloak their real interests behind a populist message that sounds plausible, while undermining the work of genuine public and consumer advocates.

For more on the ad and the industry sock puppets behind it, go here or here.

Here's a quick guide to help you cut through the industry spin:
- - - - - - - - - - -

Telco Lies
The big telecom companies say: "Is the Internet in Danger? Does the Internet need saving? It keeps getting faster. We keep getting more choices."

The truth: Right now AT&T and others want to take away your choices and control what you can do and watch online. If their high-priced lobbyists get their way in Washington, the Internet as we know it will be gone. Network Neutrality has always curbed the control of the network owners, invited competition and encouraged innovators. It's what made it possible for entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to prosper online. None of the big ideas that made the Internet the innovative engine it is today came from the cable or telephone companies.
- - - - - - - - - - -

Telco Lies
The big telecom companies say: "Building the next generation of the Internet is going to take a lot of work and cost a lot of money. And some big corporations can't wait to use it.... They're going to make billions. But they don't want to pay anything. Instead they want to stick consumers with the whole bill."

The truth: Nobody is getting a free ride on the Internet. Any Web site or service you use on the Internet has already paid these providers to reach you -- just like you pay to send e-mail and download files. In fact, total expenses from major content and service providers to expand network capacity totaled about $10 billion last year. But the cable and phone companies want even more -- forcing content providers to pay protection money to get a spot in the fast lane. Who do you think will pay that bill? You will … big time. The costs will be passed directly to consumers. If Net Neutrality is so bad for consumers, why do ALL the major consumer groups support it and ALL the major phone companies oppose it? Who do you trust more to defend your Internet rights? Without meaningful protections of Net Neutrality, there will be less choice on the Internet and higher prices, at a time we're already falling far behind the rest of the world.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Telco Lies
The big telecom companies say: "These corporations are asking Congress to create volumes of new regulations to control how content is delivered over the Internet. Should politicians and bureaucrats replace network administrators? It will be the first major government regulation of the Internet and it will fundamentally change how the Internet works. These big corporations and the Save the Internet campaign want the government to take control of the Internet."

The truth: There's nothing new about Net Neutrality. It has been a fundamental part of the Internet since its inception. As a tenet of communications policy, it goes back some 70 years. Only last year did the Supreme Court uphold a bad decision by the Federal Communications Commission to do away with the rules that forced cable and phone companies to open up their networks to competitors. Those rules protected Internet freedom by ensuring lots of competition (think of all the choices you've had for long distance service or dial-up Web access). In fact, these rules still protect the Internet under a temporary FCC ruling. All a Net Neutrality law would do is maintain the even playing field we've always enjoyed -- by preventing big cable and telephone corporations from taking over as gatekeepers.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Telco Lies
The big telecom companies say: "The net neutrality issue is a fundamental question about who should control the Internet: The people or the government? And it's a fight about who's going to pay: multi-billion dollar corporations or you?"

The truth: Who should control the Internet? Now that's a good question. But the real choice we face is whether we're going to keep the good government policy that has protected Internet freedom, created a truly free market in content and services, and encouraged free speech to flourish online -- or let predatory companies like AT&T and Comcast re-write our telecommunications law and place their chokehold on online content and services. For the entire history of the Internet, Web sites and online ideas have succeeded or failed on their own merit based on decisions now made collectively by millions of users. Getting rid of Net Neutrality will hand these decisions over to a cartel of broadband barons. Do we really want Ma Bell and the Cable Guy picking the next generation of winners and losers on the Internet?

Telcos Seek to Deceive Bloggers with Cartoon

Coming to a blog near you is a telecom-sponsored advertisement dressed up as an underground cartoon. It's the latest in the ongoing campaign by large phone companies to pull the wool over the eyes of the American public.

The cartoon is a product of a front group funded by AT&T and BellSouth. The group, Hands Off the Internet, is headed by Mike McCurry, the former Clinton Press Secretary who has been widely discredited for selling out his integrity to become the telephone industry's spokesmodel.

McCurry's group is now attempting to buy its way into the blogosphere, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a misinformation campaign against network neutrality -- the principle that keeps the Internet free and open to all.

The ad and the animation it links to are an example of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness" in action. Telco giants cloak their real interests behind a populist message that sounds plausible, while undermining the work of genuine public and consumer advocates.

No where throughout this propaganda do they identify the nation’s largest telecom companies as the money behind the production. Instead, they dress up as an authentically amateur effort -- complete with hand-drawn cartoons, a scraggly, counter-culture net-guy as protagonist and a David vs. Goliath subtext.

They frame the issue as pitting corporations against the people, the rich guy against you, and bureaucracy against the free market. They even give the URL a “dot-org” tag to cover their corporate tracks.

They paint the SavetheInternet coalition as seeking drastic regulation of the Internet. In fact, this group of more than 500 organizations, bloggers, educators and small businesses is asking only that Congress preserve Net Neutrality, the guiding principle that has kept the Internet free and open since its beginning.

It is AT&T and BellSouth that are asking Congress to radically re-regulate the Internet by stripping Net Neutrality from the wires. It's the largest phone and cable corporations -- with their duopoly control of broadband access across more than 50 percent of America -- that pose the biggest threat to the free and fair enterprise and democratic discourse.

(These same companies have handed over to the National Security Agency the personal phone logs of tens of millions of ordinary Americans -- a betrayal of their customer privacy agreements. Now, they want us to entrust them with the Internet?)

Without Net Neutrality protections, companies like AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon will swoop in to dismantle Internet diversity in favor of websites that pay their tax for speed. Industry-supported legislation now before Congress would hand over control of the Internet to these massive telcos, allowing them to set up tollbooths along the onramps and exits of the information superhighway.

Shoved to the margins will be the small businesses, open-source innovators, bloggers, independent musicians, political organizers and everyone else who can't afford the toll.

These Web outsiders and upstarts have been the lifeblood of the Internet. Many are already creating their own animations and PSAs to call public attention to AT&T and Verizon's Internet swindle, while coming to the defense of Net Neutrality. While these homegrown videos don't have a big-money ad buy behind them, they are spreading of their own volition across the blogosphere.

This type of grassroots creativity wouldn’t stand a chance under a regime where the largest ISPs limit access to high speed Internet to the companies that pay them the most.

McCurry's powerfully deceptive cartoon is a part of this telco scheme. It’s designed to convince bloggers and net users to support a plan that goes against their best interests.

= = = = =
For a frame-by-frame debunking of the telco cartoon, visit

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Trust AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth?

Tauke Talks the Talk
AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth want us to trust that they’ll be good stewards of Internet freedom. Meanwhile, they're selling out ordinary Americans to the National Security Agency.

A report in this morning's USA Today tells how these three carriers secretly provided to the NSA the phone call records of tens of millions of people — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

These companies apparently have no qualms about betraying customer trust -- or breaking federal law.

According to the report. Section 222 of the Communications Act, prohibits companies from giving out information regarding their customers' calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination, and who calls in to the number. When asked about their potentially illegal handover of this personal information, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth declined to comment, citing “national security matters.”

Now they are asking Congress to strip away Net Neutrality protections so they can become benevolent overlords of the World Wide Web.

The United States of BellSouth
Would you trust these corporations with your Internet?

Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs thinks you should. Earlier this week, he swore up and down that the telephone giant would never deny consumers access to what they want on the Internet. Tauke said that doing so would be "akin to Starbucks hatching a plan to secretly serve customers Folgers crystals."

We're not talking about coffee, Tom. Internet freedom is not a commodity for Verizon's to sell off to the highest bidder. The only thing that Verizon is "secretly serving customers" is a lie about improved choices and innovation. And they're asking Congress to pass a law that allows them to become gatekeepers to the information superhighway.

Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth maintain networks that reach into the homes and businesses of tens of millions of Americans. These companies built this access to our private lives -- and the billions in revenues that come with it -- on a “bedrock principle” of consumer protection.

Now, that they’ve sold out this trust to help the government monitor ordinary Americans, how credible are their claims that no Net Neutrality safeguards are necessary?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

McCurry Sells Out to AT&T

Deceiving the Public Is Business
As Usual for Washington Insider

How can you tell when corporations are running scared? When they wind up their coin-operated front men to unleash a tide of untruths upon the public.

For evidence, go no further than gasbag-in-chief Mike McCurry. The latest blast from this former Clinton press secretary is a frantic bid to re-align public opinion behind his new bosses at AT&T and Verizon.

The issue in question is whether Congress should preserve a concept called "net neutrality." Net neutrality is the Internet's First Amendment; it's a principle that guarantees that all Web sites and online features have unfettered access to the Internet regardless of the size of their bank accounts.

McCurry -- who is now a partner at the influential DC lobbying firm Public Strategies -- is being paid by AT&T and Verizon to spread bad information about net neutrality. In his Huffington Post piece on Monday, he attempted to paint net neutrality supporters – a left-right coalition of consumer groups, public advocates, small businesses, Internet gurus and bloggers -- as ranting lefties seeking to smother the Internet with regulation.

"The Internet has worked absent regulation," McCurry huffs, "and now you want to introduce it for a solution to what?"

This sentiment was eerily echoed in a Washington Post online op-ed by Robert E. Litan of the Brookings Institution: "Let's hope our policy-makers in Washington can resist the siren song of 'net neutrality' and keep government out of Internet regulation so that the future that beckons becomes a reality," Litan writes.

Lies and Extortion

Despite these high profile comments, this really isn't about more regulation of the Internet. That's a convenient lie being spun by McCurry and his bosses. In reality, this debate pits economic innovators, free speech advocates and anyone who enjoys Internet freedom (regardless of party) against AT&T, Verizon and their PR henchmen who are seeking government permission to re-plumb the Internet, control online innovation and stifle diversity.

In their commentary, both McCurry and Litan, have buried the lead. They fail to point out that it's precisely because of net neutrality rules that the Internet has become a revolutionary force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech.

We've had this fundamental protection in place to guarantee nondiscrimination in the law since the birth of the Internet. At least, we used to have these rules. In the summer of 2005, an industry-friendly FCC pulled a fast one. Without any fanfare or press coverage, the FCC made a new rule that allows companies like AT&T and Verizon to discriminate, to decide what content and applications go fast, slow, or not at all.

Equality and the free market be damned.

Now, McCurry and his cohorts are attempting to paint efforts to maintain net neutrality as new and excessive government interference. In reality, the most radical regulations to have ocurred over the last year were implemented on behalf of -- not in spite of -- AT&T, Verizon and other network giants.

That's right. In the midst of the online revolution, the FCC gutted the Internet's most fundamental operating principle and handing telephone and cable companies the right to discriminate against Web sites depending on who pays them the most money. In the nine months since, the demise of net neutrality, these network owners have declared that they intend to do just that: Implement a business model based on malfeasance, extorting money from online content and applications providers in order to have their sites operate smoothly via the Web.

Given their near monopoly control of broadband access, content companies will have little choice but to pay up. Those of us who can't afford the price will be shunted to the Internet's side roads.

AT&T and Verizon's predatory scheme has little to do with free market dynamics, writes Columbia Professor Timothy Wu. It's more akin to a mafia shake down. "While it's one way to earn cash, it's just too close to the Tony Soprano vision of networking: Use your position to make threats and extract payments" Wu writes.

The Grassroots Fire

This scam is only now coming to the attention of the American public. And they're letting their elected officials know that Internet freedom cannot be sold out.

As part of a vote on new telecommunications legislation last Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee members defeated an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) that would have protected net neutrality.

What's remarkable about last week's defeat is the shift that occurred on Capitol Hill in the week prior to the vote. An unlikely coalition has banded together at and sent more than 500,000 letters to Congress. This sparked an Internet revolt among thousands of bloggers who heaped scorn upon any member of the House who dared side with companies like AT&T and Verizon.

As the legislation moves to the House floor and Senate in the coming weeks, every member of Congress has been put on alert by an awakened and angry public: Momentum is shifting away from the corporations and toward the public.

Whereas before, the big telephone companies and their McCurry-men were confident that Congress would simply roll over, today, no member of Congress can vote with the telecom cartel without suffering repercussions.

Playing Favorites, Stifling Innovation

Over the last decade, the telephone lobby has stuffed hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of lobbyists (including McCurry's company) and campaign coffers of politicians in an effort to radically rewrite communications legislation.

Now, companies like AT&T are asking Congress to fast-track a bill that grants them a monopoly right to play favorites with the content that flows online – determining what users do, where they go and what they watch online.

If Congress allows this to occur, the only sites that will enjoy "open" access are the large corporations that can afford AT&T's toll. The Internet's true innovators – small guys working out of their basements on the next big Internet idea – will be shoved aside.

The telco cartel, with the help of industry sock puppets like McCurry, would like to write this extortion into law, gutting the "net neutrality" guarantees that gave all comers equal access to the Internet.

That McCurry has emerged from behind smoke-tinted glass to throw rabbit punches at groups representing the public's interest is testament not only of the success of, but also to the utter bankruptcy of his over-funded position.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mother Knows Best: Save the Internet

Net Revolt
You know that an issue has spread to the mainstream when your mom leaves a message on your answering machine urging you to go to, immediately.

This weekend saw a flurry of blog posts about Internet freedom and net neutrality as this issue crossed over from the blogosphere to Main Street.

Here's a sampling:

The Cost in Human Terms (Russell Shaw at IP Telephony)

When your mother leaves you a message, in the same tone that she leaves you a message to remember to buy sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, that you might want to keep your eye on legislation challenging network neutrality and to go to and, you know it's serious.

Open Source in the Political Fray (Dana Blankenhorn at Open Source)

...sites like DailyKos, Eschaton, MyDD (one example here) and (most interesting) have been loudest and longest on this, and their readers have responded by peppering relevant Congressional offices. I would love to see examples from FreeRepublic, RedState or Lucianne of bloggers flogging their friends to keep access to their sites free and open.

Save the Internet (Balo's Life Blog)

Net Neutrality is, to borrow a phrase from, "The First Amendment" of the Internet, ensuring that giant companies like AT&T [CEO Ed Whitacre pictured above] and Verizon can't restrict your access to some websites. Without this, any sites they don't like will load slower, or not at all. Therefore, this would end the Internet as we know it, changing the greatest free speech mechanism the world has ever seen into little more than a corporate pigsty.

Support the Markey Amendment (David Isenberg at

Here comes a BAD LAW and you can oppose it, maybe even make it better. You want the Internet to be 57 Billion URLs with Nothing On? OK, then act.

Internet (As We Know It) in Peril (CS at Mentalwire)

The good news in all of this is that civic action has brought this issue to the forefront, and I am proud to say that my representative - Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), voted in favor of net neutrality. Thanks Mrs. Shakowsky! You are an inspiration to the democratic process.

The Entire U.S Wants Net Neutrality (Doug Ross at DirectorBlue)

Ever wonder why the telcos spend so much on lobbyists rather than, oh I don't know, value-creating new applications like Skype and Vonage? For the love of... And don't think for a second that killing net neutrality isn't a huge issue. It has already happened in Canada and the results weren't pretty.