Friday, May 12, 2006

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.

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


Anonymous said...

Why is it when telcos put their side out they're lying and being dishonest. But when you do the bidding of online media companies, you're just speaking truth to power? Your selfrighteousness is really, really annoying.

Maybe Mike McCurry disagrees with you? Gee, how could anyone have a different opinion? He must be a fascist -- only possible explanation!

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't expect anything else from the Propaganda administration and its cronies

Anonymous said...

fraggler, I agree with you. The pro-net neutrality advocates are using "the sky is falling" strategy. Can we not hear both sides and have a meaningful discussion about the issue?

This isn't David vs. Goliath. Last time I checked the net neutrality side is backed by a few titans; Microsoft, Google Amazon, and Yahoo.

Maybe McCurry actually agrees that net neutrality legislation isn't a good idea. I'm sure the companies I mentioned above have a few lobbyists working for them as well.

This is about who will pay for the new pipes/capapcity to be built; consumers or content providers? telecos are investing, the government has offered tax incentives so what have content providers contributed?

Timothy Karr said...


Neither I, Free Press nor the Coalition accepts corporate or political party money to do this work.

Unlike McCurry and the other Net Neutrality opponents, we have been honest about this from the start.

Their dishonesty (as evidenced by their reluctance to disclose the money behind this animation, and by its desperate attempt to dress up telco talking points as the voice of the people) cannot be ignored. This deception is elemental to this issue and evidence of how they would conduct themselves if given complete control of the "pipes".

Forgive me for being passionate about that. The history is replete with Telco lies. And we must get engaged against a well-funded effort to hoodwink the public and seize control of the Internet.

They lose on ethics and they lose on the merits of the debate. If you want more of the latter, stay tuned for a point by point refutation of their claims.

Anonymous said...

"This is about who will pay for the new pipes/capapcity to be built; consumers or content providers? telecos are investing, the government has offered tax incentives so what have content providers contributed?"

Thank you very much, Telco Astroturf Sockpuppet Mouthpiece. I suppose you figure we're all too stupid to remember that every content provider, from Microsoft and Google on down pays for their access too? They don't get their access for free. They don't make you pay for their access beyond any usage fees you pay directly to them for whatever content they provide directly to you. They pay fat monthly bills for those fat pipes they send their content from. I work for a smaller company in the same business and can confidently tell you: we more than pay for our own access.

Your assertion, and the telcos', that those "giant, evil corporations" don't foot the bill, and pass their entire cost of doing business on the internet onto the consumer is more than disingenuous -- it's complete hogwash.

Anonymous said...

Methinks "Winston" is a shill. His use of the telco talking points, like "not David vs. Goliath" suggests he is not somebody trying to "hear both sides", but is advocating for the big money players.

As far as why "net neutrality" is necessary, it's the only way grassroots voices including blogs, podcasts, etc., can get their message out.

We've already seen how corporate media shuts out dissident voices (such as the UCC ads). The internet should not be subjected to the same silencing of dissent.

Timothy Karr said...

Today, took a shot from Mike McCurry and his fellow sock puppets at "Hands of the Internet." As you all know, they have spent tens of thousands of ad-dollars to infiltrate the blogosphere with a cleverly disingenuous ad:

Here’s our debunking of their cartoon lies:

This industry front group has been particularly adept at creating propaganda that assumes the voice of ordinary citizens. There’s nothing grassroots about the high-paid flacks and lobbyists that occupy their Washington offices. They’re work is propped up by money most notably from AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular:

Hands Off Our Money

Leo Klein said...

This isn't David vs. Goliath. Last time I checked the net neutrality side is backed by a few titans; Microsoft, Google Amazon, and Yahoo.

Actually the "titans" include Tim Berners-Lee and an army of others who were instumental in making the 'Net what it is today.

And as to "lying and dishonest", the Telco Ad Campaign speaks for itself. The only thing missing is the 'A' in a circle. Can't wait to see the faux-graffiti they've got cooked up for all those Clear Channel billboards.

They talk 'Che Guevara', they come and post comments on our blogs, but their Brooks-Brother's suits are a dead give-away.

All I can say is, ¡No PasarĂ¡n!

Anonymous said...

Fraggler, did you look at the video link? Moreover, did you did you, perchance, LOOK at the link to If so, did you happen to run across the "About Us" tab, followed by the "Member Orginization" links? Because if you did, you would feel like an idiot. Everything looks on the up and up on the outside. Innocent, hardworking citizens fighting big souless internet and software companies. Gee, fighting Microsoft, how novel! But, then you see on the website, among the innocent, hardworking, grassroots, nonprofit organizations VERIZON, CINGULAR, AND AT&T. Gosh, I can't imagine why they would oppose something with the potential to screw them over! Can YOU??? So ask yourself this: why would conglomerates like Cingular/AT&T, and Verizon be opposed to internet organizations being sent over high-bandwidth medium like fiber optics? How does this hurt poor, little, innocent INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS!?!?!? The truth is, they are still making money off of it. The problem is: they're not making MORE MONEY OFF OF IT. So fraggler, instead of emotionally-charged smears, why don't you do something a bit more, er, democratic? Like suppose, check it out to see if it's valid? Hey! that might work!

And, OF COURSE, we're all aware that companies like Google and Microsoft have done the computer world such a HUGE DISSERVICE. I, personally, liked the old BBS system, and command line interfaces, indeed, not being able to find anything on the internet was a THRILLING experience, and point-and-click interface RUINED EVERYTHING.

When was the last time AT&T, Verizon, or Cingular helped the internet, or for that matter, the computer world. Why should they care? There is not a single Google service that anyone has to pay for. What's the initiative?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for exposing the "astroturf" to the cold, hard light of day. This is why I subscribe to Free Press and Media Matters for America - to get damn mad and damn active, for all the right reasons!

Anonymous said...

Here's something that just occurred to me. What if the NSA wants new laws about net neutrality because that would make it easier for them to follow us online?

Because if the telcos want to degrade our access then it would require government oversight to make sure they don't do this.

But then that very same oversight would make it easier for the NSA to get in and spy on us without us knowing.

Anonymous said...

What leaves a bad smell is that this ad runs on 'Advertise Liberally', a network that is supposed to give left wing bloggers some revenue and advance liberal issues. Ok, thx for the telcos, the revenue is there, but wtf has this anti-Net-Neutrality to do with liberal issues? Imho this is a shame!
And I'm flabbergasted that 'Advertising Liberally' is controlled by Chris Bowers from MyDD. Is he a friend of Mike McCurry or why soen't he do something against that ad? Or at least run an ad for Save the Internet without chrage? Really, what's going on here?

Anonymous said...

I would rather see every left-wing blogger forced to eat their own shit at Abu Ghraib until they die, rather than see a single line of legislation pass related to Government Dictation of Permissible ISP Business Models.

If the Telcos are a monopoly, it's only because leftists, regulationists and local government shakedown artists helped make them a monopoly.

Timothy Karr said...

Not sure whether the above comment by FTG is a parody of the right wing or the real McCoy. Either way, hilarious stuff.

Steve Hayes said...

I blogged your article in my blog, because I think the commercialisation of the web is limiting what people are allowed to see and publish.

Check my blog to see what has been censored by Yahoo!

beervolcano said...
Another point on which Fortin and I agree is that, in the end, it is always the consumer who pays. What is interesting is that Fortin argues that unless your cable and phone companies are free to charge you more for their services, which he already admits are slower than those available in Asia, they won’t provide you service at all.

That argument is a bit like the character in “Blazing Saddles” who holds a gun to his own head and tells the crowd, “Don’t move or I’ll shoot!” If the telephone companies don’t invest in new infrastructure, then they can’t compete in video services, and the cable companies (who are increasingly offering phone service) will eat their lunch. In addition, if the telephone companies refuse to provide service, then they won’t make any money off their infrastructure — which makes it tough to stay in business.

Exactly. This is why I say, let em have it. They will ultimately screw themselves. Consumers will pay for unlimited content. Not many will pay for the version of the internet being portayed as the non-net-neutrality version. I know I won't. If I can't have access to the whole internet, I don't want any of it. Especially if it's expensive.

Content providers will reroute through cheaper "pipes" and consumers will reroute through cheaper ISPs.

Personally, I'd like to see what really would happen once the telcos start doing what they think they want. I'll bet it won't turn out like either side is predicting.

beervolcano said...


these few telco companies have opened up their networks to these people anyway

but, very good point

Anonymous said...

I don't really see what's to dispute here. The cartoon is blatantly lying...

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