Note To Telcos: Please Get Better Shills

from the at-least-have-them-sound-a-little-more-thoughtful dept

As the battle for net neutrality goes on and on, the most annoying thing to many of us has been the dishonest arguments being used in the debate. I’ve made it clear that I do not think legislation is the right way to go here, as it opens up a Pandora’s box in handing over additional regulatory control to the FCC. However, too many people who are fighting against the legislation are doing so with incredibly dishonest statements. In almost every case, it’s not hard to track the individual making the statements back to a front group funded by the telcos. Earlier this month it was Mike McCurry whining about how the “grassroots” opposition was really all funded by a $117 billion company named Google. McCurry conveniently left out that his own work is funded by a $117 billion company named AT&T. McCurry went on to claim that Google was pushing for the legislation so they “wouldn’t have to pay a dime” for bandwidth — which is flat out false.

Now, we have Sonia Arrison, who works for a think tank that is funded by telcos. Last month she was claiming that if net neutrality legislation came to be it would be the end of the internet, while then trotting out a freebie about how muni-WiFi would also destroy the internet (ignoring, of course, that almost every muni-WiFi effort nowadays is structured in an almost identical manner to the deals her telco funders got for copper and fiber rights of way — and, in fact, that telcos have now started bidding on muni-WiFi contracts themselves). This time, however, she’s flipped the argument we’ve made here around, saying that dishonesty from the likes of Google proves that net neutrality legislation isn’t needed. There’s just one problem: it’s her side which seems to be acting much more dishonest. She calls it a “scare tactic” by Google to suggest that there would be a two-tiered internet where people might not be able to get to Google. She might want to go talk with the heads of the telcos that fund her think tank, because they’ve all made it clear that they would love to force Google to pay extra to reach their subscribers. She then claims: “If the loss of net neutrality principles was really a problem, advocates wouldn’t need to scare Americans in order to win their support.” Unfortunately, the same could be said for the telcos. After all, she was the very telco mouthpiece claiming that “the Internet, as we know it, will be over” if net neutrality legislation came to be. Yet, now she’s against scare tactics? Sorry. The telcos really need to learn to hire better shills. Even as someone who supports their position that legislation may be premature, I’m embarrassed by the hired help they trot out who can’t even sound halfway competent.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Note To Telcos: Please Get Better Shills”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
PopeRatzo says:

Net Neutrality is a Partisan Issue

Guess which political party the telcos give the most money to.

Now guess which party is against net neutrality.

While it’s true that there are folks in both parties that are owned by the telcos, in just a few minutes with the search engine of your choice, you can learn the story of the politics of net neutrality.

Then, go register to vote. Time’s running out.

Bennett Haselton (user link) says:

Yes, ISPs do silently block access to web sites

See for example:

My web site was blocked for two major backbone providers for about a year, who refused to unblock it or discuss it with me (one of them stopped doing it immediately after Slashdot ran a story about it, but the other didn’t).

It really drives home the point of why neutrality is needed, when it’s your own web site that gets blocked.

The moral(s) of the story are: (1) yes, it does happen, (2) no, existing anti-trust and anti-fraud law do not prevent it from happening, and (3) no, “the market” does not prevent it from happening

Just me again says:


When the first, W3C met, they made a few fundamental decisions which seem to have been lost along the way.

1) The internet is for information. It shall not be used by corporations as a way of earning income.

2) (This one actually came after a couple years of scientists using the internet to send data back and forth between labs)

The internet should be readily accessible by everyone for any information means necessary.

3) (I’m not sure of this one, because I’ve only read it off in left field somewhere, but it makes sense so I’ll put it up)

No Isp may in anyway limit or block service to any of their customers so long as those customers are using the internet for non corporate informational means.

Yeah, these three key points should be all that’s needed to solve this frickin net neutrality case, as ALL major ISP’s have to get permission to allow people to access the ‘net, and that generally means a ToS (I prefer to call them TpS’s however because that’s what they amount to) and possible litigations against them if they violate said ToS.

But that’s my two cents.

ps. To the Liberal who said

“Guess which political party the telcos give the most money to.

Now guess which party is against net neutrality.”


This isn’t about the politics. I’m a fuckin republican and I am all for net neutrality not net neutering.

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:

So How Much Does Google Actually Pay?

It seems to me that Google ought to be trotting out the receipts to show what they are actually paying their provider, RCN, for their bandwidth. This rant about how Google is using the bandwidth “for free” is such a load of crap; every bit and byte of bandwidth on the ‘net has been paid for AT BOTH ENDS! That is the essence of the concept of net neutrality; it’s all BEEN PAID FOR so those maintaining the pipes should have no say as to what goes through them. They should just shut up and pump.

ladyK says:

YOU are the shill, my friend

The term Net Neutrality (NN) is not even satisfactorily defined but has certainly attracted a large group of followers. NN proponents are quite certain that at any moment AT&T, Southwestern Bell, AOL, and any number of ISPs and bandwidth providers, are going to suddenly start preventing their customers from visiting sites or accessing services. Why they would want to do such things is explained with hand-wavy responses and hyperbole. Attempting to get a net neutrality proponent to give a concise definition or rational argument to support the fear-mongering is like pulling teeth with a set of rusty pliers. One of the most vocal proponents of NN is Columbia law professor Tim Wu (occasionally given credit for coining the term). Tim really wants us to care about Net Neutrality. In Why You Should Care About Network Neutrality (The future of the Internet depends on it!) he pants:

“In trying to figure out who’s right, let’s forget about the Internet and look at KFC. The fast-food chain discriminates. It has an exclusive deal with Pepsi, and that seems fine to pretty much everyone. Now, let’s think about the nation’s highways. How would you feel if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special “rush-hour” lane for GM cars only? That seems intuitively wrong. But what, if anything, is the difference between KFC and I-95? And which is a better model for the Internet?

We’re all supposed to care so much about “Net Neutrality” that we throw logic and common sense out the window. Wu wants us to that KFC, a private entity with the right to engage in private contracts and competitive agreements, is the same as a government transportation agency engaging in fascist policy – the subsidization of an automobile manufacturer. He also wants us to believe that a competitive agreement between two companies is “discrimination.” If you are a consumer and want Coca Cola, but KFC only serves Pepsi, you have a choice. In Wu’s highway example, the traveler has no choice. He is the victim of a government-imposed monopoly (a redundancy – monopolies are not possible in free markets). This is generally the level of argument you can expect from neutrality proponents.

The overwhelming historical evidence of ISP behavior in the marketplace would itself suggest that these fears are unfounded. While it is true that competition for ad revenue is fiercely contested and many content providers have tried to make their content “sticky,” users still have a tendency to wander off the reservations. The companies that have rejected tight controls on their users have thrived and the companies that have attempted to force users into closed systems haven’t fared so well. A good example of this is AOL. Their customer base is largely made up of people who are happy with the way that AOL’s software tries to keep them “in network,” though AOL before their merger with Time Warner were losing customers as other alternatives emerged. AOL’s inclusion of a web browser allowing customers to surf outside the AOL network was primarily done to prevent their customer base from fleeing. It was in their best interest to provide access to other locations. They still have a significant customer base and they can credit the inclusion of a standard browser for this.

Internet companies have responded slowly to customer desires at their own peril. I remember the day I was hired at Lycos to help manage their ad delivery network. Lycos’ stock was trading at $107 dollars and the company was a legitimate threat to Yahoo. At that time page views were the current measure of success and Lycos was in the #2 spot with 38,000,000 page views per day. A year later, in 2000, Lycos’ stock was trading at just over $30 dollars a share. They didn’t listen to their customers and paid the price. Their customers found other destinations. After the Terra/Lycos merger, they have become almost irrelevant. They aren’t even listed as significant in search engine rankings compared to their competitors even though they were one of the first to claim the space. This kind of market fallout isn’t limited to strictly ISPs. The Internet has totally changed the face of the tech industry. Where proprietary business models were once very lucrative for technology companies – systems with networking protocols and devices locked the customer into a single brand – you can count on one hand any of the companies which have managed to survive those practices as the demand for open systems grew. I still remember the Wang “Soup to Nuts” radio commercials from 1991. Where’s Wang now?

Net Neutrality proponents want us to believe that in spite of market forces dictating that content and destination restrictions are not good for business, they will one day defy all logic and start engaging in the practice.

But let’s at least discuss an equivalent to the KFC example provided by Wu. Let’s say that AOL/Time Warner decides it no longer wants to allow AOL customers to reach Google and instead drives them to their own in-house search engine. Why is this bad? Time Warner/AOL owns the equipment and network they’ve built. Net Neutrality proponents would claim that the FCC needs to step in to prevent this. What if AOL, who by the way has to pay for the bandwidth it provides to its customers, limits movie and file downloads or certain chat clients that they haven’t written? It’s their company. Their customers are not required to continue to accept bad service. Customers are still free to switch providers. Nobody has been harmed.

NN proponents would like you to believe otherwise but their entire argument is based on fear. NN is the classic protection racket with the FCC as “savior.” This idea is barely newer than prostitution. Ironically Wu projects his own designs on those he is attempting to punish:

But what must be banned are blocking, gratuitous discrimination, and choosing favorites. 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. This is similar to the outlawed, but still common, “payola” schemes in the radio world. Yes, there’s money in such schemes, but they aren’t good for the industry or the country. If allowing network discrimination means being stuck with AT&T’s long-term vision of the Internet, it won’t be worth it. [emphasis added]

This would be amusing if it weren’t for a good number of people taking this drivel seriously.

There is one area the NN proponents touch upon which I find compelling. The main infrastructure which allows the Internet to thrive has been traditionally controlled by the monopoly phone companies. Landlines and power infrastructure are good examples where the consumers have not been given a fair shake. In many areas, there is little choice but to use a single provider because the rights of way and easements were long ago co-opted by government and business interests in concert to create monopoly phone and power companies.

However, rather than inject yet another bureaucracy to protect us, why not try something different for a change? Why not try freedom? If the easements were not controlled by monopolies, entrepreneurs could start delivering fiber to your neighborhood (there is quite a bit of “dark fiber” already available which represents a great deal of potentially available bandwidth). Any local or federal easement could be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Wireless companies could gain access and put up towers. Innovation and creativity may even eliminate the necessity for unsightly towers, poles and lines to deliver services. Why not introduce real competition in the areas where currently none exists and let the market decide? If content-limiting schemes prove successful, maybe we should, rather than assume that the company doing this is evil, consider the customers are getting the service they desire. What if this turns out to be a valuable service which is then further emulated? It would be far better than the unimaginative solution being proposed which has the ugly side effect of encroaching upon our liberties.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...