Verizon-Funded Group Claims Killing Net Neutrality Would Really Help Puerto Rico Right Now

from the really-bad-taste dept

We’ve long noted how one of the sleazier telecom industry lobbying tactics involves paying minority, diversity, or other groups to parrot policies that actually undermine their constituents, but provide the illusion of public support for shitty positions. Like when the cable industry paid Jesse Jackson to claim that trying to bring competition to the cable box was akin to racism in the 1960’s American South. Or when AT&T paid the The Hispanic Institute to support the company’s planned acquisition of T-Mobile, ignoring that the deal would have killed tens of thousands of jobs, while driving up wireless rates for all Americans.

Because there appears to be zero public repercussion for this grotesque tactic, it has continued to be highly effective — and has been of great use to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast as they attempt to gut net neutrality rules. While this sort of group co-opting is always in bad taste, the Intercept noticed that the Verizon-funded National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce decided to take things to the next level this week. In an editorial over at The Hill, executive director Justin V&?eacute;lez-Hagan claimed killing net neutrality would aid storm-stricken Puerto Rico:

“My organization?s interests ? especially those of small businesses and entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico who now need to be afforded every advantage and opportunity to grow more than ever before ? and our members? mutual experience have made it clear that the best thing for America?s fragile economy will be for the FCC to continue its plan to repeal the unnecessary regulations.”

V?lez-Hagan wrote that the public should back the effort by Pai and others to place the Republican majority in Congress in charge of remaking net neutrality rules. Doing so, V?lez-Hagan wrote, would provide the ?incentive for businesses to invest in Puerto Rico (and others impacted by natural disasters) instead of relying solely on relief packages.?

So one, as documented countless times, the claim that modest U.S. net neutrality rules (which didn’t go half as far as other international implementations in Canada, India or elsewhere) hurt broadband investment is indisuptable nonsense, a position supported by SEC filings, earnings reports, and ISP executives’ own statements. That doesn’t stop the broadband industry from paying countless economists, fauxcademics, astroturfers, politicians, diversity groups and other paid policy parrots to repeat this claim ad nauseam — despite all of them knowing full well it simply isn’t true.

Two, the idea that gutting popular consumer protections will magically help Puerto Rico rebuild is both nonsensical and offensive. Many Puerto Ricans continue to struggle to get clean drinking water and medical care, and most telecom services won’t be restored until sometime next year. The idea that Puerto Ricans have the luxury to worry about net neutrality right now is obnoxious tone deafness, and the claim that killing effective, useful consumer protections is almost as good as traditional relief funding is both ignorant and dangerous.

Of course, since this cozy quid pro quo is never clearly put into writing, groups like this can usually hide behind a quick “no comment” or some faux breathless indignation at the idea these groups are little more than glorified parrots for industry. Meanwhile, outlets like the Hill are more than happy to print this kind of prattle without the slightest funding and conflict of interest disclosures, only perpetuating the problem.

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Companies: national puerto rican chamber of commerce, verizon

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Comments on “Verizon-Funded Group Claims Killing Net Neutrality Would Really Help Puerto Rico Right Now”

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Vidiot (profile) says:

"… the best thing for America’s fragile economy…"

Whoa… don’t use that phrase near Chairman Pai’s boss! He MAGA’d the economy, from what I hear.

This is the problem with astroturfing; you can’t manage the messaging with any nuance, and your amateur apologists accidentally say things that don’t match the supplied narrative. Or, worse yet, they might say something that’s true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Don’t get me wrong, the author is a full-blood lobbyist with no care about losers like customers as long as it can benefit the ISPs he represents and using Puerto Ricos current state as an argument is extremely dishonorable. But the primary suggestion is to let the politicians make laws to replace Title II, which is not as big a deal as it is made out to be. As soon as Pai comes up with a document to start the work on a Title II successor is when the real objective war on his slimy lies can begin.

Reading that NPRChamber (which is a lobbying organisation mr. Velez-Hagan represents) is sponsored by Alphabet, Apple, Paypal, Verizon and Charter (Spectrum) along with Herbalife and a few others!?! is not a strong platform for his opinions to begin with. Btw. calling them National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce is a bit of a disgraceful since this lobbyist is astro-turfing as an official government organ in Puerto Rico, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

>and our members’ mutual experience have made it clear that the best thing for America’s fragile economy will be for the FCC to continue its plan to repeal the unnecessary regulations

And let the ISPs regulate access to the Internet to benefit their own profits. I am sure that extra charges to access their customers will do wonders for your members businesses, so long as they want to become employees of large corporations.

Andy says:


If i lived in the region or had the money to i would be investing in property on the island as it looks like Google fibre and Tesla electric could be using the island as an example of what they can achieve. Maybe i could buy trumps bankrupt golf course and build a few homes on each hole…damn i have good ideas, just cannot think of a name to call the area after doing a deal for trump to give it up for a few thousand pesos as we all know he is terrible at making deals…

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Selling out to verizon is good for MY finances, so surely it's good for everyone, right?'

I almost hope they paid him a good amount for his dignity and self-respect to sell out the people struggling with the aftermath of a disaster like that, because I’d hate to think he went cheap.

On the other hand… Fuck him. Selling out those around him for any amount of money is a revolting act, and shows just how contemptible and disgusting a person he really is, such that if he’s capable of feeling shame for what he’s done it will be compounded by having to face just how little he went for.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am from Puerto Rico and its the first time we hear of this "organization"

This is bull… The chamber of commerce is an actual national organization over here but this one is just a fake hoping to catch the uninformed to pass off their support for Pai as the official stance of our government. This pretty much constitutes an attempt to impersonate a local government official with is a crime over here.

Right now we struggle with basic necessities and communications fail constantly. Net neutrality prevents the ISPs and the telco incumbents from profiteering more than they already are during this national crisis. It borders on treason as it seeks to harm the lives of my people as we are working our butts off trying to rebuild. Last thing wee need is fast lane price gouging schemes and all the other abuse Net Neutrality prevents being legalized so our cable monopoly and shitty wireles providers can further erode the quality of service with their greed.

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