Net Neutrality Battle Gets Silly… Astroturfers, Sock Puppets, Student Projects, Overwritten Word Docs… Oh My
from the and-here-we-go dept
This was pretty predictable, but it’s still unfortunate that it’s happening. We’ve complained in the past that both sides on the net neutrality debate are exaggerating and making absolutely ridiculous arguments, and even though I agree that putting net neutrality in the law in some manner is a bad, bad idea, I have to admit that the arguments by most of those against such rules is so ridiculous that it makes me wonder they’re thinking. There were the outright lies — such as the ridiculous claim that Google gets its bandwidth for free (to which I asked if the lobbyist who made that statement would pay Google’s broadband bill — and he never responded). Then there are the claims that net neutrality would mean the end of the internet or no more iPhones, both of which are ridiculous hyperbole that have no basis in truth.
Given that there actually are perfectly good arguments against regulations on this issue without resorting to such ridiculous lies, I actually think that such claims really hurt the case of those who are worried about the unintended consequences of opening up the internet to regulation.
However, with the FCC’s recent decision to sorta, kinda, partially reclassify broadband access, it seems like the lobbyists, sock puppets and shills are going into overdrive, and it’s not helping anyone. In fact, part of the mess is that everyone now is looking for big “gotchas” on either side. For example, the website Think Progress got its hands on a PowerPoint apparently coordinating the ridiculously over-the-top anti-net-neutrality campaign, which they’re apparently trying to rebrand “net brutality.”
Of course, the other side isn’t immune to questionable activities either. It didn’t take long for the press to realize that a letter that was being passed around by Rep. Jay Inslee in support of the FCC’s move had metadata indicating it was actually written by the policy director of Free Press, a group that has been ferociously pushing for net neutrality regulations for quite some time. Ridiculously, Inslee is trying to pretend that the document wasn’t written by Free Press by claiming a staffer had just typed over a Word doc sent by Free Press:
Inslee’s office told Hillicon Valley on Tuesday that Scott did not, in fact, draft the letter on behalf of the congressman. Rather, as Inslee’s staff scrambled to put out something last week in support of the FCC’s goals, it consulted old documents and industry talking points for ideas. A staff member ultimately typed the new letter on top of the Word document that Free Press previously sent Inslee — the date of which was May 7 — meaning the meta-data still reflected Scott as its author.
“Yep, that’s it, in our haste we typed over a word document with someone else’s meta tag,” said communications director Robert Kellar. “There is no plot and we created the letter.”
I mean, it even sounds like Kellar knows he’s not fooling anyone with the “Yep, that’s it” part of the statement. It’s about this far away from “Yeah… that’s the ticket…”
Either way, as we predicted, the whole thing is becoming a political food fight being manhandled by lobbyists and special interests, with little regard for the deeper, important, underlying issues. Even when moves are being made by people outside of the beltway, it’s being dissected for the driving forces behind it, rather than what actually makes sense. What comes out in the end is going to be shaped by those lobbyists and special interests. And that’s my big fear with all of this. The end result isn’t going to have anything to do with actually looking at what’s best for the internet or the American people, but who can game the system better and turn this into a hotter political football.