As a rule of thumb, any public policy push made by Harold Ford and John Sununu is not going to be in the interest of the general public. So when they're writing editorials about how disastrous reclassifying broadband as a utility would be, and say they are honorary co-chairs of Broadband for America, "a coalition of 300 internet consumer advocates, content providers, and engineers," you can believe something fishy is going on.
A disclosure obtained by VICE from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade group for ISPs, shows that the bulk of Broadband for America's recent $3.5 million budget is funded through a $2 million donation from NCTA. Last month, Broadband for America wrote a letter to the FCC bluntly demanding that the agency "categorically reject" any effort toward designating broadband as a public utility. It wasn't signed by any internet consumer advocates, as the Sununu-Ford letter suggests. The signatures on the letter reads like a who's who of ISP industry presidents and CEOs, including AT&T's Randall Stephenson, Cox Communications' Patrick Esser, NCTA president (and former FCC commissioner) Michael Powell, Verizon's Lowell McAdam, and Comcast's Brian Roberts.Broadband for America isn't the only astroturf group on the anti-net neutrality case, VICE reports. There's also the American Consumer Institute. That sure sounds legitimate, doesn't it? But ACI is, of course, funded by an internet service provider lobbying group, MyWireless.org. That foundation is "controlled by lobbyists from the cell phone industry." ACI showed their hand when they argued that consumers currently enjoy "increased choice" in the broadband market and that the competitive market can only be preserved if the FCC doesn't reclassify broadband.
Notably, Broadband for America's most recent tax filing shows that it retained the DCI Group, an infamous lobbying firm that specializes in creating fake citizen groups on behalf of corporate campaigns.
And what astroturf effort wouldn't include the Koch brothers? Certainly not this one. The Heartland Institute, a "think tank" which spends most of its time in climate change denial and a member of ALEC's Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force, is on board as well. ALEC, of course, is one of the Kochs' favorite projects. Heartland has received funding as well from Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable.
The unprecedented response from the real grassroots should make it clear even to the FCC where public opinion is on the issue of net neutrality. Let's continue to drown out the astroturfers.