Comcast, AT&T Are Paying Minority Groups To Support Killing Net Neutrality

from the sock-puppetry dept

For years, we’ve noted how one of the greasier lobbying tactics in telecom is the use of minority groups to provide the illusion of broad support for what’s often awful policy. Such groups are given cash for a shiny new event center in exchange for parroting any policy position that comes across their desks, even if it dramatically undermines their constituents. As a result, we’ve shown how time and time again you’ll see minority coalitions like the “Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership” supporting awful mergers or opposing consumer-centric policies like more cable box competition or net neutrality.

And it’s not just minority groups. A wide variety of groups take telecom cash to repeat whatever they’re told, whether it’s rural Texas school associations, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association or even “balloonists.” Some of these groups are created specifically for this purpose. Other times, these groups are “co-opted” without understanding what they’re actually supporting. The goal overall is simple: to create the illusion of broad support for bad ideas the actual public — minority or otherwise — would oppose.

With the debate over net neutrality heating up once again, ISPs have again dusted off this tried and true tactic to mislead the press, public, and politicians. As a result, we’re seeing numerous civil rights groups that are more than happy to let giant corporations like AT&T and Comcast rent their identity for the weekend. This week, a coalition of such groups, including the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the National Urban League, fired off a letter urging Senators to move quickly to craft “a permanent statutory solution” to “solve” net neutrality once and for all:

The issue of network neutrality and the importance of a free and open internet has been a political football. Every time the political pendulum swings, this policy debate becomes difficult, convoluted, and even condescending. One thing is crystal clear: The internet should be open and accessible.

For this reason, we support a permanent statutory solution that enshrines the basic open internet principles into law. These core principles are not controversial and should not be subject to endless litigation, regulation, and reconsideration. A statute locking in net neutrality would protect net neutrality no matter how the political winds blow.

A statutory approach also avoids the jurisdictional and classification problems that plagued the last FCC. The goal should be improvement, deployment, and adoption of the high speed networks that all Americans deserve. Legislation will provide certainty to consumers and industry for the foreseeable future.

On the surface this sounds perfectly reasonable. Until you understand what’s actually happening in telecom policy and the fight for net neutrality right now.

While there’s no debate that a Congress-made net neutrality law would be the ideal solution, you may have noticed that Congress is so awash in telecom campaign contributions that crafting a law not riddled with fatal loopholes has been impossible. As a result, the best path forward for those that actually care about net neutrality is to leave the existing rules and the FCC’s Title II authority in place (which is what these groups should be advocating for).

But, since that’s not what ISPs want, they’re pushing Congress — and their armies of dollar-per-holler policy tendrils — to push for a new law, one that will claim to “solve” net neutrality but will actually work to kill it through “compromise.”

The FCC technically could walk back net neutrality via the rulemaking process, but it would require another public open comment period. And since the 4 million comments made the last go-round broke FCC records, ISPs aren’t keen on revisiting this strategy. So the strategy is this: craft a new Communications Act rewrite or other law professing to codify net neutrality into law, but bury it with so many loopholes as to make it net neutrality protection in name only. When net neutrality supporting Senators in Congress fail to come to the table, they’ll be derided as being unwilling to compromise for the good of the people.

But it’s not really a compromise when the end product is worse than doing nothing (read: leaving the popular rules alone).

Once you understand all of that, it becomes clearer how the broadband industry is using these groups to create bogus support for a new, much weaker net neutrality law to “avoid the jurisdictional and classification problems that plagued the last FCC.” And if you follow the money behind this week’s letter, you’ll find that the group that coordinated it has a long, proud history of taking money from telecom companies, in exchange for coordinating civil rights group support for everything from the the latest megamerger to the assault on net neutrality:

Telecom issues, however, are a particular specialty. Last week?s letter was organized by the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council (MMTC), a group funded by the telecom industry that has previously encouraged civil rights groups to oppose net neutrality. MMTC in previous years reported receiving about a third of its budget from industry-sponsored events; its annual summit, which was held last week, was made possible by $100,000 sponsorships from Comcast and AT&T, as well as a $75,000 sponsorships from Charter Communications and Verizon.

This tactic has been so successful for Comcast, the company actually renamed their top lobbyist, David Cohen, the company’s “Chief Diversity Officer.” And while Comcast does indeed occasionally fund groups and events that put the needed cash and services to good work, you’re supposed to ignore the fact that Comcast lobbyists are actively working to undermine the minority communities the company claims to be helping with their other hand. Whenever I point this out, Comcast yells at me for calling Cohen a lobbyist.

We’ve been talking about this strategy for more than a decade now and nothing really seems to change. Since this cozy quid pro quo isn’t technically illegal, and is never put into writing, groups accused by reporters of selling their constituents down river either don’t respond to requests for comment (as was the case in The Intercept’s latest report on this subject), or they become breathlessly indignant at the very idea their integrity could be questioned. All the while, these groups’ constituents are usually entirely unaware they’re being used as political props — to actively undermine our collective best interests.

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Companies: asian americans advancing justice, naacp, national urban league

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Comments on “Comcast, AT&T Are Paying Minority Groups To Support Killing Net Neutrality”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just having businesses act in their best interest is very dark morally. Murder for hire would be much more sought after and organized…

That is also part of why the lobbying layer in the political circles can become problematic. As soon as you combine legitimate lobbying (like human right) with “alternative incentives” with no real way of getting caught/punished, the political process is somewhat shorted to a pay to play. Politicians are humans and the correct incentives exist to poison every opinion. If you let businesses act that way, you have to rely on the moral of politicians as well as enough openness/whistleblowing in the businesses to get bad actors punished. The alternative is Shadowrun.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

All good points. The statement above was mostly incorrect. There still appears to be a problematic relationship between the company and the advocacy group similar to a junkie and a drug dealer. Paying a group to become shills is slimy, but turning away from principles for a straight-up cash payment is worse in my opinion. That was what I was trying to say above.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you want to help protect NN you should support groups like ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press who are fighting to keep Net Neutrality.

also you can set them as your charity on

also write to your House Representative and senators

and the FCC

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

While the EFF, ACLU, etc are all good organizations that support the principles of net neutrality and privacy, writing your Congressman or the FCC at this point won’t accomplish much after the overwhelming “moral victory” the Republicans achieved back in November. Right now they believe they have the numbers in both houses to push through any agenda they want and the pro legacy corporation (that is – incumbent corporations) administration will rubber stamp it. At the same time any opposition is clearly liberal obstructionism and if it’s a government organization then the conservative base that voted for them and already angry at Big Government are going to eat it up regardless of the truthfulness of the arguments.

In short, even reasonable regulations against legacy corporate abuse of employees and consumers are screwed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It was the previous administration when SOPA and PIPA happened, when whistleblowers were hunted for exposing PRISM, and Barack Obama himself argued strongly against private encryption.

Don’t make it a “Republicans” vs “Democrats” issue. This is not about what party you’re giddy about. This is about the government fighting against the freedom of information, and both political parties are there only to sidetrack people (and you’re helping a great deal by bringing politics into this thread).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Two things can be true. Republicans want to reduce regulations that protect the consumers for higher earning potentials.

Also, SOPA and PIPA were not about net neutrality but about data collection and monitoring of private citizens in the name of national security. Yes, it’s still bad, but it’s a different sort of malfeasance, and one that both parties have supported.

One is Gov vs People, the other is Corp vs People. Both are battles we need to fight, but the net neutrality one is the one before us now which is being lead by the Republican party.

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

Cancelling Comcrap today!

Ok yes, I am cancelling Comcast today. When they raise their price from $139.00 (to high already IMO) to $199.00 & want me to sign on for 2 years to keep “that excellent deal..” it’s time for a change.

Luckily I can change. But to AT&T, another evil empire. However, this is $120 a month going to $136.00 in 3 months, 2 year agreement. Still it’s too high but I am not ready to be a cable cutter just yet.

This, or something like this, is what the consumers need to do. Cancel. Go back & forth providers, fuck with them to no end. Keep it going, not a boycott, a consumer form of disobedience. This is something like this, we just need a leader! Make the SOPA blackout look like a Fireside Snuggle!

Nimble Navigator (user link) says:

Re: Cancelling Comcrap today!

200 USD? You’re a liar! For 50 USD you can get Xfinity (100 Mbps) with HBO („Internet Pro Plus with HBO®“), check

Only in Europe (which is right now overrun by Muslims and Sharia Law is enforced! They have no-go zones in all major cities now!) you’ll find cheaper plans (though that might not be true at all, because they probably don’t have HBO or a similar valuable service, they don’t have any culture at all, to be honest) – but that’s only because that’s state sponsored since they don’t pay for their defence (just like their communist health care!).

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Cancelling Comcrap today!

Do you want to see a copy of my bill? It’s currently $179 & will rise to $199 in a couple months. This after calling & begging, bullying, threatening to cancel since November.

No I can’t get 100 Mbps, 50 Mbps is all they are offering me & testing shows I rarely get over 25 Mbps. AT&T Uverse is what I have now, 20 Mbps (& I am getting it), more channels, HBO & Cinimax (only HBO with Comcrap). AT&T is just as evil but at least I’m paying them less.

Now the rest of your post is pure rambling garbage & shows you have zero credibility. I really am wasting my time responding.

Nimble Navigator (user link) says:

The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

For years, we’ve noted how one of the greasier lobbying tactics in telecom is the use of minority groups to provide the illusion of broad support for what’s often awful policy. Such groups are given cash for a shiny new event center in exchange for parroting any policy position that comes across their desks, even if it dramatically undermines their constituents. As a result, we’ve shown how time and time again you’ll see minority coalitions like the "Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership" supporting awful mergers or opposing consumer-centric policies like more cable box competition or net neutrality.

It seems to me, that the minorities are the problem here, so maybe they should be more carefully monitored and registered. And in case of any inregularities deported back home – America first! Illegals seems to be at the root of every problem this nation is plagued by. Thank God, we have a God-fearing President Trump and VP Pence now! They start to reign in these problems and only the regressive left is whining about it. Just ask any sane business person about it, and they’ll tell you less regulation like net neutrality are actually beneficial for the consumers. But I guess it’s more en vogue on this page to treat businesses like cancer. Luckily a President Trump doesn’t feel threatened by these kinds of techniques. He is, after all, a successful business man himself!

In any case the corporations need to use the tools available to them after all. And if minorities want to fuck the hardworking American, their best bet is to lie in bed with Wall St. At least their influence is not as big as I would have been with Crooked Hillary!

At the end of the day I really do not see the problem with paying fairly for the services I use. It’s the freeloaders abusing the free data plans, that cause this to be an issue after all.

Nimble Navigator (user link) says:

Re: Re: The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

This comment is so absurd that I thought it must be parody at first.

Why am I not surprised to get this kind of response from an "Anonymous Coward"?

You clearly don’t understand the issue at all.

No, it’s you and your fellow file sharing friends who do not want to understand, that building and maintaining a high-speed infrastructure costs money. You just want fast internet access with no data caps. That’s never going to work. Putting new fiber cables into the ground or under the see costs real money. And these capacities wouldn’t be needed if you people stayed with a couple of news pages and blogs. So no harm in asking the people who use the terabytes per month to chip in a bit more!

thebrowncoatmk2 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

This has little to nothing to do with how much data a consumer uses. In very simple terms, It’s about allowing ISPs to prioritize one website over another if they are willing to pay for it or get in bed with them some other way (such as advertising).

For example, Netflix uses a lot of bandwidth and Comcast could start charging them to be in the “fast lane” so that their service is not terrible and slow. This leads to increased costs to Netflix’s service and everyone has to pay more for it. Meanwhile, small, independent websites get throttled way back because they can’t pay to be in the fast lane and people stop going there because the site is so slow. This will stifle up and coming companies as only the big corporations will be able to pay out so their service works as intended. Net Neutrality is about every site being treated equal. So this effects everyone not just people using a lot of data. This is the very dumbed down and simple version and there is a lot more to it.

So, when Anonymous Coward says “You clearly don’t understand this issue at all,” he/she is COMPLETELY CORRECT. Also, that’s a lot of assumptions just based on one persons username… what’s wrong with you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

“Putting new fiber cables into the ground or under the see costs real money. “

That subsidized expensive has been recouped many times over while they let the infrastructure degrade so they can replace with substandard wireless.

“And these capacities wouldn’t be needed if you people stayed with a couple of news pages and blogs.”

Yeah – so if I only did that I still seem to be paying through the nose.

“So no harm in asking the people who use the terabytes per month to chip in a bit more!”

Maybe they should not advertise speeds their networks can maintain.

Daniel Narvaes says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

Hey, I’m using my real name so you can’t accuse me of being an “anonymous coward.” I agree with you about data caps being a good thing, and I’m not sure why the net neutrality crowd is so against them, but the real issue with net neutrality is not data caps, it is some data being preferentially treated above other data. That is what we are all up in arms about, or it should be. If I have a blog or informational page, but I can’t afford to pay the ISPs to promote my content, that doesn’t make it any less important than content that is promoted. In general, I would go so far as to say that non-paid content is actually more important and useful to society than content that someone is paying to promote.

That being said, your first comment is quite absurd. Monitoring and registering minorities is not what this country is about. That would make us no better than the Nazis just before World War II, when they registered and monitored Jews.

Stranger says:

Re: Re: Re: The problem are the minorities, not the corporations

All the ‘hardworking Americans’ already paid over 200 Billion to the corporate mafia fascists to install fiber – they took the money and didn’t deliver on what they promised –

Minorities do not ‘fuck’ the hardworking American. 1) they work harder & longer hours for less doing work you wouldn’t do let alone survive on the wages paid. 2) Amerika would collapse if these people were all deported because they are here working jobs primarily for large AmeriKan business and industries. 3) if they go then businesses like – Agriculture, Meat Packing, Garment, Janitorial, Domestic services – Child care, Light manufacturing, Construction labor, Warehousing, etc. etc. etc. etc. all go bust. Along with the sub economy these immigrants generate – it all dries up. And Amerika would be destabilized overnight. Now you’re ‘fucked’.

You’re being fed nonsense, pure rhetoric. No one is going to do mass deportations. The same level of deportations (which factually climbed during the Obama years over the Bush years) will still continue. Deportation is simply a fact of life for all modern nations to some degree. For their economies to grow they need fresh blood unless the birth rate of their legacy citizenry is prolific – most are not. The immigrants can come to ours & other nations because there are jobs waiting for them, for those that don’t fit in or don’t adjust, aren’t smart enough to play the game while being taken advantage of etc. there is deportation.

These words you spew are first generated by the Kock Brothers who fund the Heritage Foundation, the American Freedom Party (largest, financially strongest political party when coupled in lock step with Republican Party), the Tea Party, etc. etc. all for political wedge issues and gain. They know you are a narrow minded hateful poorly educated person because their data shows this so they pander to you to vote for their terrible candidates that work against your best interests and enrich theirs.

President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

That’s you fool.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Perhaps it is time for the government to look at how these poor corporations are able to shell out all of this cash while claiming they can’t afford to do more.

This is a game.
If the government does what is best for people, they will be attacked for ignoring minorities.
If the government does what is best for the ‘minorities’, they will be handing corps even more power.

Perhaps it is time to make everyone show their work.
They can claim that X might leave minorities out, but perhaps its time to demand neutral evidence to support it.
If we look at the history we can find all sorts of evidence that minorities are at least ignored at best exploited by the corps for their bottom lines.

Lets move past the soundbites & hype, lets show the history of how the corps forget all the promises they made to get support.

Ray Corder says:

The Internet

These companies will do anything. As for that, same goes for these Minority groups who take their money. No shame, rotten to the core. Everyone knows the Internet was developed by the US Government, using our tax dollars, to give it a rapid and smooth access to some major Educational Facilities and it has evolved into what it is today. The current rules and regulations are working very well so let’s work to keep it from becoming broken.

intrautarchy says:

I left the National Urban League over Net Neutrality … but wait there's more

I terminated my association with the National Urban League when I learned how much its CEO and corrupt former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial and its chapter CEOs are in bed with corporations, especially in being major sponsor Comcast’s bitch against Net Neutrality.

I didn’t just leave the National Urban League. I spoke out at their meetings against their tactics since they are more and more becoming a product of renewable groupthink through espousal of policies that are intended for self-deprecation of the individual that leave nothing left but a fragile group. I was naïve as a young adult, believing the organization was actually involved in building up the non-self-sufficient individuals in the communities its chapters claim to serve instead of bending over to engage in terrible policy promotion on behalf of sponsors. The truth of the matter is that many CEOs of many these organizations speak for themselves and their insider board of directors who embargo information from their downstream layman members and supporters that would reveal that their self-serving and sponsor-dictated society-shaping agendas are emboldened by their "one step forward, two steps back" results.

There are actual civil and natural rights issues that need to be addressed at the individual and community level that corrupt non-profit, corporate, local, state, and federal government programs are designed to inhibit through obfuscation, but these charlatan civil rights organizations have proven they are doing the bidding of the collectivist "government by proxy" Common Core educators, telecom, IT, healthcare, and financial corporNations, all who are in syndicated servitude to the communist central banking dynasties that are the "top of the pyramid" of what we have been edu-indoctrinated to believe to be "our government".

This only becomes and repeats as a vicious cycle when we observe "something’s wrong" but don’t speak out against it and act to extirpate it. We are to blame for our insouciance.


Christophe (profile) says:

Welcome to the UNITED STATES! Now that you are here, select yes if you would like to sell off a portion of American freedom? :::CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK:::

Next option: Vote for which president you would prefer. 1. the president that will keep the course maintaining certain values and ideals that have helped build this country OR 2. The president that will sell tomorrow to offer more to immigrants today ensuring the minority vote and his (or her) 4-8 years of power.

2!! 2!! 2!!

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