Telecom Doublespeak, Network Neutrality And Rewriting The Rules

from the it-all-comes-together dept

As we've hit the 10th year mark on the Telecom Act of 1996 and people are finally realizing it's time for a rewrite, it seems that rather than serious discussions about what needs to be done, we're getting spin and doubletalk from paid shills -- paid for by telcos who are trying to claim that this is about "choice." That's rather amusing, because the point that others are making is that the whole reason this is a problem is because there is no real choice, in that the telcos have been able to cut out all of the real competition -- even in cases where they got all sorts of government assistance in exchange for promises to keep the competition around. It appears, however, that the paid shills have successfully convinced FCC chief Kevin Martin (apparently the way to his heart is to sing him Happy Birthday). He's now been quoted, once again, as saying that there's no reason to worry about network neutrality because there's no evidence that the telcos are doing anything. Apparently, he hasn't been listening to Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth, who haven't missed an opportunity in the past few months to say very publicly that they're doing everything they can to end network neutrality on their networks.
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  1. identicon
    Tim, 9 Feb 2006 @ 10:43am

    Choice and "Shilling"

    It just isn't true that there's no choice. Virtually every consumer has, at a minimum, a choice between DSL and cable. Now, you might thinks that not enough choice, and I might agree, but it's something. At a minimum, it's vastly preferable to the situation 20 years ago where most consumers only had one choice for each telecom service.

    On another subject, if Sonia is a "paid shill," then you should add me to the list as well. I spent two years working at the Cato Institute, whose contributors include Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner. (Although the bulk of Cato's money--70%--comes from individual donors) My current employer, the Show-Me Institute, would gladly take money from those companies (or anyone else) if they would give it to us. However, we're very clear with our donors that they don't get to have any say in what we write. Our donors give us money because they like what we say, not because we say what they like.

    It's an unfortunate reality that I need a paycheck to pay my bills and put food on the table. I like writing about public policy for a living, and there aren't a lot of opportunities to do that that don't involve taking money from somebody with an opinion. I'd love to be a full-time columnist or college professor, but the competition for those positions is pretty fierce. Most of the other options, such as working as a hill staffer or a lobbyist, involve a lot more direct "shilling" than does think tank work. Virtually all political magazines are subsidized by donors with a particular point of view.

    So working at a think tank that takes money from corporations isn't my first choice, but I don't think it's anything to be ashamed of. I'd like to think my arguments would be evaluated on their merits, not based on where my paycheck comes from.

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