We've talked more than a few times about the telecom industry's favored tactic of paying minority groups to parrot bad telecom policies
, even if said policies actually harm these groups' constituents. Whether it's AT&T paying the The Hispanic Institute to support AT&T's failed bid for T-Mobile
(a deal that would have raised rates for wireless users) or Comcast paying The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
to support their acquisition of Time Warner Cable (a deal that will likely only make bad customer service at both companies worse), combining these groups with the existing payroll of fauxcademics, consultants, think tankers and other sockpuppets helps create the illusion of broad support for anti-consumer policies.
It's a parlor trick that has seen endless implementation in the net neutrality debate. The latest example is the Minority Media and Telecom Council
(pdf), which alongside a laundry list of diversity and minority groups
(pdf) has been lobbying the FCC with net neutrality talking points that (surely coincidentally) mirror the broadband industry's. Namely, that weaker Section 706 rules are the best path forward
(ignoring they do nothing and likely won't survive another legal challenge) and that tougher rules under Title II will kill network investment (which, as we've noted repeatedly
, is also bunk).
At the front of this disingenuous diversity army appears to be Jesse Jackson, who, the Washington Post
states, spent some time recently lobbying the FCC for weaker net neutrality protections. Why? Apparently Jackson believes that carrying the water for lumbering duopolies somehow will magically create jobs:
"Jackson "was unequivocal in voicing his opposition to Title II because of its effects on investment in broadband and because of the ultimate impact on minority communities and job creation," said Berin Szoka, another participant in the meeting with Wheeler who has also argued for Section 706."
Szoka is the same individual who has repeatedly tried to argue that killing off net neutrality will be a great thing for startups
, so if anything, this latest FCC meeting must have at least had great entertainment value. As for the claim that Title II will kill investment (and therefore jobs), this has been debunked time
and time again
. When parts of Verizon's FiOS network were classified under Title II (mostly to net tax breaks for Verizon), you'll be pleased to learn that the sky didn't fall
. Meanwhile, after a decade of deregulation companies like AT&T and Verizon have made it clear they're never going to upgrade many poor areas. In fact, they intend to back away from many of the communities
Shockingly, neither Jackson nor any of the lobbying groups listed in "united" support seem aware of these realities in the slightest:
"Civil rights and diversity organizations are largely united in their support for Section 706, Jackson said in an interview Monday. He added that no matter which legal approach the FCC chooses, the agency's net neutrality rules should not end up marginalizing minorities and the poor. "We got a lot of poor folks who don't have broadband," said Jackson. "If you create something where, for the poor, the lane is slower and the cost is more, you can't survive."
Of course if you've been playing along at home you know that the entire concept of net neutrality revolves around protecting everyone (including the poor) from the nation's broadband duopoly, and the price hikes and assorted gatekeeper shenanigans they've been experimenting with
for the better part of a decade
. Yet somehow in Jackson's head, protecting the incumbent ISP's right to engage in anti-competitive pricing models will be a good thing for less affluent areas:
"Jackson raised substantive concerns Thursday about the ability of low-income Americans and minority communities to afford bandwidth-hogging Internet services, according to someone who attended the FCC meeting and had lunch with Jackson beforehand but who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. Internet plans that exempt some applications from consumers' monthly data caps are one way to make data more affordable, and the tactic has become a popular business strategy in developing countries. But the practice also cuts against the principle of "strong" net neutrality because exempting some services from the cap necessarily means giving them special treatment over others. "[Jackson] immediately glommed on to this," said the person. "There are some strands of net neutrality … that are in direct conflict with low-income Americans."
Plans that "exempt some applications from consumers monthly data caps" sounds a lot like AT&T's misguided "Sponsored Data" efforts
, which involve companies paying AT&T a fee for their content to bypass the company's usage caps. It's an idea that's solely
about creating a new revenue stream for AT&T, but has the potential to hurt small companies and non profits
that may not be able to pay AT&T's troll toll (how exactly would that help the poor?). And while there are some international examples of cap-exempt services being experimented with in developing nations where infrastructure barely exists (see 0.facebook.com
and Google Free Zone
), we're talking about the United States.
And here in the United States, our friendly neighborhood duopoly giants are looking for any opportunity to jack up what are already some of the highest prices in the developing world. If Jackson and friends really want to help their constituents, these diversity and minority groups could focus on things like fighting state laws that ban communities from improving their own broadband
. I'll go out on a limb and guess that these groups' obfuscated financial donors would prefer that doesn't happen. Instead, by supporting the status quo and ensuring we take the weakest path possible on net neutrality, Jackson and friends are fighting against the best interests of the very same people they claim to be supporting.