Congress Busted Using Cable Lobbyist Talking Points In Attacks On Net Neutrality

from the professional-parrots dept

By now, most Techdirt readers realize that far too many members of Congress don't so much have thoughts about technology policy, as they do bulleted mental lists of talking points provided by a lobbyist happy to do their thinking for them. That has been particularly true when it comes to telecom policy over the last few months, especially the GOP's ham-fisted attack on popular consumer broadband privacy protections and the telecom sector's self-serving frontal assault on net neutrality.

Over the last few weeks, as the FCC was preparing to begin dismantling net neutrality rules, House lawmakers received an email from GOP leadership educating them on how to best defend the agency's extremely unpopular decision. Included in that e-mail was an attached list of talking points (pdf) making all manner of disengenous claims about the net neutrality debate:

"Want more information on the net neutrality discussion?” wrote Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference. "Here is a nifty toolkit with news resources, myth vs reality information, what others are saying, and free market comments."

Usually, Congress members cover their tracks well enough to obfuscate the fact they let lobbyists and campaign contributions do the thinking for them. But the Intercept noticed that metadata attached to the talking points clearly indicate they originated with the cable industry's biggest lobbying organization, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA):

"The metadata of the document shows it was created by Kerry Landon, the assistant director of industry grassroots at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, and other cable industry companies. The document was shared with House Republican leaders via “Broadband for America,” a nonprofit largely funded by the NCTA."

As such, you'll surely be shocked to learn that many of the talking points included in the packet weren't remotely true, including one claiming net neutrality is somehow "anti-consumer," another regurgitating the repeatedly-debunked claim that net neutrality killed network investment, and several repeating the industry's favorite claim that net neutrality protections aren't necessary, because the broadband industry never does anything wrong:

"These “Title II” regulations, rammed through the FCC by the Obama White House, were based on a hypothetical fear of broadband providers blocking certain websites or putting competitors in slow lanes. But despite ten years of the left stoking those hypothetical fears, they never materialized. Why? Because it is not in the interest of broadband providers to degrade the experience of their customers, especially when watching video or streaming services. The broadband providers would lose customers to their competitors if they ever attempted to block content."

Here on planet Earth, we've watched as large ISPs used usage caps to hurt streaming competitors, block users from using certain services unless they pay for more expensive data plans, intentionally congest their networks to drive up interconnection costs, throttle entire classifications of traffic then lie about it, and even group up to block competing mobile apps and services they didn't want to compete with. Anybody that thinks it's hyperbole to state that ISPs will use their size, leverage and the lack of broadband competition to engage in a rotating crop of anti-competitive behaviors simply has not been paying attention.

And again, while it's still unsurprising to see lawmakers mindlessly parrot whatever giant telecom conglomerates tell them to, that doesn't make it any less grotesque. Combine that with the bot that's spamming the FCC with bogus support for the FCC's unpopular policies and the coordinated effort to make net neutrality supporters appear racist and unhinged, and you may begin to notice that the companies pushing this latest anti-consumer agenda aren't particularly concerned about integrity or playing fair.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 4:43am

    'Not paying attention' would be the BETTER possibility sadly

    Anybody that thinks it's hyperbole to state that ISPs will use their size, leverage and the lack of broadband competition to engage in a rotating crop of anti-competitive behaviors simply has not been paying attention.

    Well you know what they say...

    "It is difficult to get a politician to understand something, when their future 'contributions'/'retirement' depends on their not understanding it."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 6:46am

    Remember when the NSA loudly insisted that metadata didn't matter? Look who else has got egg on their face now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 6:58am

    The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

    The militaristic tactics talked about in this video is the same tactics being used today to attack conservatives. If your views can't be defended then you resort to violence. This is why free speech is being rejected on liberal college campuses and why the Dems are rioting in the streets almost weekly. Burning, vandalizing and committing assault. So much for the tolerance and diversity they preach out of once side of their mouth while they commit heinous acts.

    The race and gender wars fostered by the left are more of these tactics. They must divide and divert or the people would take the time to examine the arguments and see that progressivism (actually a misnomer, should be regressives) is a violent, bloody, failing ideology. You only have to look around the world to see the ultimate fate of these kinds of societies. Big government always leads to iron fisted control and death. It cannot tolerate dissent because its ideology cannot be defended. There are more than 100 million people in the ground due to this violence and if they have their way, there will be many more here and in Europe soon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_a7dQXilCo

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:03am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      Ummm... please, do explain how your nonsense is pertinent to this conversation? Because it appears to be partisan drivel designed to fuel division and violence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:44am

        Re: Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

        Like good sheep, modern Dems deny the truth and continue the violence. If you could refute anything I said or in the video, you would have. But you can't because it is true. Thus the violent reaction the Dems have to free speech.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:49am

          Re: Re: Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

          But what does any of that diatribe have to do with the article at hand?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 8:04am

          Re: Re: Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

          Pot, meet kettle.

          I suggest you examine your own behavior in the mirror and ask yourself how posting in such an inflammatory, finger pointing manner, acting like we're some violent mob out to get you is anything other than hypocrisy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 10:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

            It is funny that you consider they history and current actions of the Democratic party inflammatory. On that much we agree.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 9:07am

          Re: Re: Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

          Like good sheep

          Why are conservatives infatuated with farm animals?

          There seems to be a disproportionate number of references to sheep by conservatives that either suggest projection or, well, something more nefarious.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:04am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      Why do you defend the indefensible?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 26 May 2017 @ 7:50am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      Let's see.
      Gianforte body slams a reporter
      FCC reporter roughed up.
      Journalist questioning HHS Secretary arrested.

      All under a GOP WH, House and Senate.
      No pattern here, move along.....or else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 9:24am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      Don't you have some yogurt to apologize to?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 9:29am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      Defend the indefensible by pointing at something that is so far off topic that it is logically incoherent for most, certainly doesn't provide much to the discussion at hand.th

      The only place where such stong emotional, irrelevant and overarchingly partisan drivel is valuable and that is for marking the territory for zealots. I imagine it is how terrorists justify killing innocent people:

      It is like any historical expropriation: The opposite side is a bunch of "favourite slur" or associates with "fundamentally unlikable".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 9:33am

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      I gather you're a cable company operative disrupting free speech on net neutrality. So your diatribe on liberal free speech rings hollow, you hypocrite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wolfie0827 (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 7:05pm

      Re: The inconvenient truth about the Democratic Party

      I'm sorry, but WHO is actually causing this violence?!? Open your effing eye to more than Fox news and Brietbart. and then read the articles and maybe your comments will not be flagged so often!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:06am

    trust

    ''''''...while it's still unsurprising to see lawmakers mindlessly parrot whatever giant telecom conglomerates tell them...""""


    so OK, we can't trust Congress, the President, FCC, NSA, etc etc

    Who specifically should we now trust within our government ??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 7:45am

      Re: trust

      The guys who spend all day surfing for porn. You can depend on them to surf for porn religiously, and not persecute you whilst they do so. More government folk need to surf for porn instead of doing the lobbyists' dirty work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 7:48am

      Re: trust

      "Who specifically should we now trust within our government ??"

      Nobody. Government, like police, is a necessary evil. They serve needs of the populace, but should always be watched and never trusted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 8:20am

        Re: Re: trust

        Holy SHIT!!! where did you come from?

        I have been telling these fuckwits this for a while now.

        You are dead on! Government is a construct that should never be trusted, even when they are crystal clear and squeaky fucking clean you still can never trust it.

        While the door for corruption can never be closed in government, It is "trust" in ones government that opens the "FLOOD GATES".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 26 May 2017 @ 11:12am

          Re: Re: Re: trust

          You sure are self-congratulatory about how you constantly tell people on a website that is largely devoted to stories about how the government is untrustworthy that the government is untrustworthy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 1:44pm

      What branch of government can we trust?

      The answer is, and always has been, none which is why we need transparency, it's why we need strictly enforced FOIA laws, and we need third parties interested in using that transparency to hunt for and expose corruption and wrongdoing.

      The FCC suffers from regulatory capture, essentially Ajit Pai is on the take from the telecoms (Comcast or Verizon, I think) so he personally benefits from ignoring the interests of the public and instead serving those companies, e.g. passing regulation to help them hold their control of the industry, and not passing regulation that restricts them,

      This is off topic but: Is this cause to not have government at all? Not really. No government or no regulation accomplishes the same thing, letting big industry do what they want, including engaging in numerous tactics to discourage competition, thus sustaining their regional monopolies, and forcing the public to suffer their abusive policies.

      Telecommunication infrastructure requires regulation for consumer protection. We just don't have a system that works to assure the people are represented, nor a means to implement it in today's political clime. This isn't to say we shouldn't try, rather we should keep trying until we get it right.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 7:09am

    "would lose customers to their competitors"

    I'd love for them to point out the competition in the markets under-served by 1 or just to far out for anyone to bother but they got a law passed to make sure no one else could serve them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:10am

    Congresspeople routinely deliver messages written by the very same people who pay them to deliver said message. If they did this on Twitter they'd have to use #ad or #sponsored. Can we make them do this IRL too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:12am

    [sarcasm]

    Why are people making such a big deal out of this? It's just Metadata afterall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 8:24am

    Ok... so if the broadband industry is claiming that they'd never do the things that net neutrality protections would prevent... why do they care if the protections exist? If I'm never going to murder anyone, what difference would it make to me if murder was made illegal?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      I get your point, but I'm not sure that's the best analogy. What we have here, is some one who maybe hasn't actually murdered anyone yet, but has dabbled in manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon, who has a note book at home where they've planned out a list of all the people they plan to murder as soon as murder is made explicitly legal trying to argue that there's no reason to keep murder illegal because no one's ever been murdered before.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McGyver (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 9:20am

    Sadly, none of this information is ever mentioned in the "popular" media... So only people who actually are knowledgeable about this in the first place are even following this... Everyone is watching the Russian distraction machine masquerading as a president and his train wreck side show of supporting players cavort for the cameras, while the real and lasting damage is being done to education, consumer protection, Internet freedom, environmental protection, worker safety and god knows what else...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dismembered3po (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 9:28am

    May as well be archaeology...

    I especially love this quote:

    "The Internet is really blossoming, but some policy-makers and politicians want to control it and regulate access to it. We should not try to intervene in this marketplace…"

    Made by the FCC Chairman...in 1999!

    A time when competition ACTUALLY DID EXIST.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 10:20am

      Re: May as well be archaeology...

      ahem... competition DOES exist. The problem is that regulation curtails it.

      People ask for regulation in hopes that i will help keep the place free, politicians take advantage of a now blessed power grab, wash rinse and repeat.

      Before its all done, a lot of people start asking how his happened while calling the people telling them what happened a bunch of fools.

      Then... they call upon government again, to solve a problem government was the cause of. People are stupid... very stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 26 May 2017 @ 11:16am

        Re: Re: May as well be archaeology...

        ahem... competition DOES exist.

        Please give me an example of how "competition DOES exist" (all caps, no less!) in the broadband internet market, the thing we are currently talking about.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 8:23pm

        Competition DOES exist

        I live in a Comcast monopoly region. My only choice for home internet service in my county is Comcast.

        And mine is far, far from the only Comcast-only region

        Tell me: where is this competition?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 10:38am

    so sad.

    And yet with all the apathy by Congress and the majority of voters not caring enough to get them out of office nothing will change

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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