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:
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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?


alyceclover said...

I don't get it. It makes me say, hey they got the money they should pay it and most definitely the people should control it. As I see it, the government wants to gain control, because us "wingnuts" have freedom to connect with each other (as you've pointed out, we have to pay, for access to connect, and for services). As near as I can tell the big guys already control what they want us to see. Example, did you know you can buy books about me at Amazon, or find items relating to me at Ebay? (whoa, didn't know people wrote books about me, wow!).

Anyway, will take your word for it, that this site is propoganda, thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

Good work Tim.

The corporations that seek to add the Internet to their stable of media assets will tell any lie they have to in order to achieve their dominance. They ( were even running BlogAds that ran on progressive sites like DailyKos that spouted their disinformation.

Anonymous said...

The editors of the Wall Street Journal take the stance that the market an decide this issue. In other words if a telecom is stupid enough to start charging more for premium delivery they will start to suffer in the market as dollars go elsewhere. I tend to agree, but my question is: "Should meglomaniac CEOs of big telcos be allowed to play dice with their company's stock price?" Why should ATT go down this path when it is so obviously wrong in so many ways?

Timothy Karr said...


The free-market competition argument doesn't work in this case. It assumes that there are other broadband choices in a given market.

According to a report last August by Free Press, more than 50 percent of the country has only one or no choice of broadband provider. In a large portion of remaining markets there is only a choice of one dominant telephone company (DSL) and one dominant cable provider.

The largest of these have all stated plainly that they see no need for network neutrality.

For the majority of broadband users in America, then, what real choices are left if their provider decides to discriminate against content? Very few to none.

Jeff said...


Thanks for your careful "outing" of these industry mouthpieces.

It amazes me that people will accept rhetoric thrown by unknown organizations with "Brave New World"-ish names, as opposed to individuals publicly stating their positions, identities and paymasters.

Who seems more credible, for example, the "Institute for Liberty" or Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web? And that's before you look carefully at what they're saying, which is always revealing.

And thanks for outing those industry commenters on my blog. Got to make sure the glare of public scrutiny fixes on them and their FUD.