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.