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Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the if-you-can't-trust-huge-corporations-who-can-you-trust dept.

Network 142

An anonymous reader sends a report from Vice which alleges that a trade group for internet service providers is building support for its crusade against net neutrality by funding opinion pieces and letters that masquerade as legitimate public sentiment. '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. 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.'

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Chattanooga of all places (-1, Troll)

Noxal (816780) | about 2 months ago | (#47178527)

Seriously, since when is somewhere in the filthy, dirty South a bastion of progress when it comes to broadband?

Re:Chattanooga of all places (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178605)

Since it hasn't been the "filthy, dirty South" since the introduction of reliable indoor plumbing.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178625)

So only 5 to 10 years ago?

Re:Chattanooga of all places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178661)

This is Chattanooga, it's still got some questionable air quality, and back in the 70s, it was abysmal.

Though this would be geography, not just industry. It's an unfortunate geographical location.

That said, the internet is great, and comes from a municipally owned utility. While the water and sewer suck, and at least one of those is privatized.

like rain on your wedding day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178781)

the internet is great, and comes from a municipally owned utility

much cognitive dissonance. wow.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (-1, Offtopic)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 2 months ago | (#47178707)

Seriously, since when is somewhere in the filthy, dirty South a bastion of progress when it comes to broadband?

You obviously haven't been there since the 1860's.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178773)

The segregated South was progressive? LOL.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179047)

The segregated South was progressive? LOL.

Nah, feeling superior to an entire half of a nation simply because of where they are located, pretending like they are all one homogeneous block who all think and feel the same way, looking down on them, then patting yourself on the back for how amazingly progressive and unbiased you are is so much better.

You're one of those lemmings who needs the notion of "protected groups" to define for you how you should feel and about whom you should feel it. You really have no true understanding of your own of what prejudice really is and why it's wrong, because you are obviously eager to apply your own brand of prejudice against anyone not previously defined for you as a "protected group". That is called identity politics and politicians love it because it makes divide-and-conquer so easy. It's practically a vote factory! And here you are, enabling and embracing it, just so you can feel like your own particular bigotry is legitimate. Disgusting.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (1)

darrellg1 (969068) | about 2 months ago | (#47179547)

Bravo

Re:Chattanooga of all places (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179689)

I'm both straight and white. I'm not part of a protected group nor do I agree with the notion of protected groups. Doesn't change the fact that the South is a regressive shithole.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (1)

darrellg1 (969068) | about 2 months ago | (#47180077)

And I bet you call yourself "educated"

Re:Chattanooga of all places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47180153)

What I call myself doesn't alter reality. I could call myself the King of France and the South would still be a shithole.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179011)

Seriously, since when is somewhere in the filthy, dirty South a bastion of progress when it comes to broadband?

u jelly, yankee?

Re:Chattanooga of all places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179055)

Of what? NASCAR? Out houses? Trailer parks? Buck-toothed rednecks?

Re:Chattanooga of all places (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179159)

Of what? NASCAR? Out houses? Trailer parks? Buck-toothed rednecks?

Wow, if this is what you think the South is like, I'd hate to see what stereotypes you believe about other countries.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179199)

It is what it is like. Along with the rampant homophobia and not-too-subtle racism.

Re:Chattanooga of all places (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47180543)

you forgot the swarms of out of work niggers on welfare.

Not disabling ads (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178547)

The "ads disabled" checkbox isn't disabling ads.

Re:Not disabling ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178585)

The Adblock however does.

Re:Not disabling ads (1)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about 2 months ago | (#47178617)

It not working takes out the incentive to moderate and log in, though.

Re:Not disabling ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179079)

It not working takes out the incentive to moderate and log in, though.

Running your own adblock means you provide your own incentive. You log in and moderate if you think it's worth doing. If not, you don't. No carrot-and-stick method needed.

Money in Politics (5, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 months ago | (#47178575)

A classic case of corporate interests spending lavishly to buy influence on issues where their interests run counter to those of the public at large. Who was the tool here last week who insisted that this was not a problem?

Re:Money in Politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178799)

Who was the tool here last week who insisted that this was not a problem?

Probably Tom Wheeler in "disguise".

Re: Money in Politics (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179075)

What I don't understand is that when a company lies on its ads, it gets fined, but when it lies via other means, nothing gets done, and it's even considered free speech by some. Why? It's all the same to me. There should be no free speech for companies.

Re: Money in Politics (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 2 months ago | (#47179673)

What I don't understand is that when a company lies on its ads, it gets fined, but when it lies via other means, nothing gets done, and it's even considered free speech by some. Why? It's all the same to me. There should be no free speech for companies.

They get away with it because individual citizens are not held accountable for lies. Lobby and activist groups on both sides of issues can pretty much send out any message they want, and both are guilty of misleading.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is many individuals that just believe which-ever group they initially feel comfortable with, and don't think critically, get the facts, and decide for themselves. Everyone thinks they are an expert, but they can only repeat headlines. As long as the lemming vote exists, the lies will serve their purpose.

Re: Money in Politics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179711)

Exactly. All official speech by a company is business. It should always be illegal for any party to be intentionally deceitful in business.

kill them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178591)

just let this pass, then after a few months kill all the managers and owners of this company - put everything on video in HD and online as a lesson to future idiots

Re:kill them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178783)

Sadly, this is the only thing that might actually work.

Re: kill them (2)

Teranolist (3658793) | about 2 months ago | (#47179027)

Depends... Maybe they would find a way to those videos into profit

Re:kill them (1)

captjc (453680) | about 2 months ago | (#47180071)

put everything on video in HD and online as a lesson to future idiots

Nah, it would just get copyright flagged by NBC Universal.

They all do this (5, Insightful)

rabbin (2700077) | about 2 months ago | (#47178621)

PR in the US is often just propaganda. It is another avenue through which wealth can be used to exert undue influence over policy by shaping public opinion, deceiving, astroturfing, etc etc. It is justified under Free Speech, but there is no concern for equality: if you have more money, your voice (or the people you pay to spread "your voice") is much more likely affect change. In my opinion, this is wrong.

I recommend reading the book Deadly Spin by Wendell Potter which shows just how insidious this practice is. The author used to be a top PR executive at several insurance companies but "found his conscience" and is speaking out against it.

Re:They all do this (5, Interesting)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | about 2 months ago | (#47178677)

Astroturfing should be outlawed as a form of fraud IMO...

Re:They all do this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179409)

How will Apple survive when their army or 'tufers isn't allowed? The zealots are too dumb to do it themselves.

Re:They all do this (0)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 2 months ago | (#47180137)

Remember when the iPod came out about 2001 and all the internet links of photos were somehow always.returning an iPod photo? You clicked on a link for a picture of J - Lo and it returned an iPod picture. Even displaying an false file size to fool you??? THAT was the reason they became "so popular" when it was just another MP3 player. And people started to refer to all mp3 players as iPods... damn. Zealots paid zealots... Sorry I don't own any Apple "products" even if you paid me.

Re:They all do this (1)

AnontheDestroyer (3500983) | about 2 months ago | (#47180601)

Are you astroturfing here, or just trolling? I've never heard this story.

But uhh, if you're asturfing, I'll be happy to spread this if I can get a cut. I mean, provided Apple doesn't replace my messages with ads for that hot new sexy language they got, called Swift. So dreamy. #Jobs

Re:They all do this (3, Interesting)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 2 months ago | (#47178787)

With all the bullshit they are surrounded by, is it any wonder the American people make such poor choices? Whenever someone blames the voters for the state of the union, this is the stuff I think of.

Re:They all do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179331)

Astroturfing shouldn't have any affect on popular opinion. Why would I care what a bunch of other people allegedly think? The danger is that our elected representatives will mistake this crap for popular opinion itself.

Re:They all do this (5, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47178797)

It is justified under Free Speech, but there is no concern for equality: if you have more money, your voice (or the people you pay to spread "your voice") is much more likely affect change. In my opinion, this is wrong.

Who gets to decide then which speech is proper and which speech isn't proper? Should we have a "ministry of truth" that determines "for the people" what speech is astroturfing and what speech is not? Should churches and unions be allowed to spend money to speak nationally on political, moral, or financial matters? Should newspapers and media companies, being wealthy corporations themselves, be allowed to engage in political speech? What about citizens grouping together, pooling their money, and then using the pooled money to speak? What organizational form should that take, if not a corporation (usually not-for-profit)?

I certainly do not want a political system in which only a few kinds of organizations (media companies, churches, unions?) have the right to engage in large scale political speech while everybody else merely has the right to vent in forums, if that. People like you complain a lot, but you don't have a good answer.

Re:They all do this (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 months ago | (#47178983)

Perhaps just mandate disclosure of major financial supporters? Speak all you want, but be required to have 'this campaign funded by' in small print at the bottom of the advert.

Re:They all do this (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47179293)

Yes.. this. And we can mandate all donations to anything be made public so we can go on another wich hunt and run someone out of a job when they donate to something we don't like. That way every one will think like us- at least in public they will. Snd thats all that matters right?

Re:They all do this (3, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#47180741)

That's how it already works for individuals! In fact, that's exactly why these SuperPACs and whatnot exist: so that the people who control them can gain an unfair advantage over Joe Schmuck who has to stand accountable for his political speech.

Re:They all do this (2)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | about 2 months ago | (#47180165)

Forget the small print. Big, easily read text with a voiceover.

Re:They all do this (3, Interesting)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 2 months ago | (#47180417)

Just make politicians have to wear patches on their suits indicating who their donors are. NASCAR style.

Re:They all do this (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 months ago | (#47179023)

Here's one that's easy: outright lying. Unless you're arguing that fraud shouldn't be illegal, because it's just an expression of free speech. Astroturfing is a form of fraud: you're trying to present views as coming from someone else. If the cable companies want to say 'net neutrality is bad because it will cost us money', then that's fine. If they lie and pretend to be a consumer group, then that's not.

Re:They all do this (4, Informative)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47179169)

Here's one that's easy: outright lying. Unless you're arguing that fraud shouldn't be illegal, because it's just an expression of free speech. Astroturfing is a form of fraud: you're trying to present views as coming from someone else.

Broadband for America is quite clear about who their backers are: http://www.broadbandforamerica... [broadbandforamerica.com] And they didn't present themselves as a grassroots organization, SFGate (Hearst Corporation) did.

But the trouble with demanding truth in free speech is that somebody needs to determine what "truth" is. Either the executive or the courts have to adjudicate. Who do you think will be at the receiving end of determinations of untruth? What do you think the government position would have been on the truth of such statements like "Blacks and whites are equally capable", "Women and men are equally capable", or "Homosexuality is not a disease"? It's minority views that benefit most from being able to speak up against the majority opinion; tolerating lies and deception is the price we pay for that.

Re:They all do this (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47179447)

Fraud is not illegal unless it directly taks advantage of someone in an illegal way.

I have no problem with ISPs selling fast lanes if they do nothing to hamper speeds below thst in which their customers purchase. To me, as long as my connection's up to limit or any traffic from or destined to my network is delivered in good faith, i could care less if netflix or google or whatever pays for something to reach me faster than the speeds i purchased. The problem happens when the ISP ssells me 8 meg speeds and limits it to 2meg based on a third party payment or not. This is the fraud because as long as they block or limit, they are never delivering what they sold me. And no, the words "up to" are not magic and absolve them of that. When they intentionally limit the speeds, the connection can only be "up to" those limits. 2meg is up to 8meg but when they limit it, it can never be more than up to 2meg.

Re: They all do this (1)

Night64 (1175319) | about 2 months ago | (#47180023)

Fast lane? Do you know how QoS works? The only way possible is, when you have a congestion, which packets will you drop? If you have "fast lanes", you drop all the other traffic, except the one in classified as " fast lane". Actually, this term is deceptive. The car metaphor doesn't apply. There is no "lanes" in data communication. There are only queues, and space for one packet at a time to flow. If there's space for all packets, no problem! But when there is a congestion (and we have it all the time) priority traffic goes first, the rest goes when priority is not using. Hope I've made myself clear, but you can see in Wikipedia to know more.

from the depths of Hell, I stab at thee! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47180753)

Ten movies streaming across that, that Internet, and what happens to your own personal Internet? I just the other day got... an Internet [that was] sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday [Tuesday]. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material

Re:They all do this (2)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 months ago | (#47180311)

The problem I have with the "fast lanes" are that most ISPs are monopolies or duopolies in their areas. They already have little incentive to innovate. After all, what are you going to do? Go without Internet? Of course not, so keep those monthly checks coming for as much as the ISPs demand.

Given the monopoly/duopoly fact, what is preventing ISPs from turning "fast lane/faster lane" into "slow, congested lane/fast, big money lane"? What's preventing them from ignoring any speed increases to the normal traffic that doesn't pay them for special treatment while they make sure that the companies that pay them get super-high speed access? And will there be exclusive deals? If Amazon signs up with Time Warner Cable in my area as the exclusive Internet video provider (besides TWC's offerings and by doing so paying much more than normal "fast lane" access, of course), what would this mean if I wanted to use Netflix? Would I need to move to a different town just to use Netflix?

The answer is that nothing is preventing them from doing this. If it makes them money, they'll do it. Speeding up the normal Internet won't make them money so that will be left to languish. If ISPs get their way, any website worth visiting will need to pay every ISP fast-lane acess fees. This would make operating your own website prohibitively expensive so only the big companies would be able to do it. And thus, corporate status quo will be maintained.

Re:They all do this (1)

dave420 (699308) | about 2 months ago | (#47179201)

It's really quite easy - ban money from politics. No politician can ever earn money privately. They have to declare their worth before they become politicians, and can not leave with anything more than the accumulated wages they earned during their life in office. All subsequent earnings are subject to investigation should conflicts of interest be alleged. The media has to actually engage in journalism and cover issues with the minimum possible level of bias - any failures result in censure or worse. The problem now is that if an entity has money they can use that money to directly influence politicians. That is utterly pathetic, and causes so much grief in the US (and, indirectly, the rest of the world). For a country which bangs on about how awesome democracy is, it sure seems to have no problem watching the democratic process be quickly eroded by swathes of corporations. No, money is not speech. Money is money and speech is speech. Wrapping something up as a "free speech" issue does not mean it should be revered in hushed tones like some embodiment of the American ideal - if it's bullshit call it out, otherwise you end up in this tragically disgusting state of affairs where the largest wallet dictates what everyone else has to do, and the only good happens when a one-in-a-million alignment of massive evils cancel each other out and a trickle of progress seeps through. The world weeps for the US - other developed countries have their issues with their political systems, but most seem to be able to keep this separation far better than in the US.

Re:They all do this (2, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47179387)

It's really quite easy - ban money from politics. No politician can ever earn money privately.

We live in a representative democracy. Why would I want people like that representing me?

The media has to actually engage in journalism and cover issues with the minimum possible level of bias - any failures result in censure or worse

I think you have just perfectly characterized how the Soviet Union worked.

The world weeps for the US - other developed countries have their issues with their political systems, but most seem to be able to keep this separation far better than in the US.

Well, thankfully I don't have to live in those "other developed countries".

Re:They all do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179427)

No politician can ever earn money privately. They have to declare their worth before they become politicians, and can not leave with anything more than the accumulated wages they earned during their life in office.

All of this exists right now. It has nothing to do with the actual "money in politics" troubles we have.

Re:They all do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47180237)

It is justified under Free Speech, but there is no concern for equality: if you have more money, your voice (or the people you pay to spread "your voice") is much more likely affect change. In my opinion, this is wrong.

Who gets to decide then which speech is proper and which speech isn't proper? Should we have a "ministry of truth" that determines "for the people" what speech is astroturfing and what speech is not? Should churches and unions be allowed to spend money to speak nationally on political, moral, or financial matters? Should newspapers and media companies, being wealthy corporations themselves, be allowed to engage in political speech? What about citizens grouping together, pooling their money, and then using the pooled money to speak? What organizational form should that take, if not a corporation (usually not-for-profit)?

I certainly do not want a political system in which only a few kinds of organizations (media companies, churches, unions?) have the right to engage in large scale political speech while everybody else merely has the right to vent in forums, if that. People like you complain a lot, but you don't have a good answer.

It isn't a matter of whether what someone is saying is factually correct, it is whether they knew it to be false at the time they said it. It is a lower bar than having to prove that what you are saying is true, and I think anyone would have a hard time arguing that there is any benefit to allowing people to knowingly defraud their fellow citizens. Outright lying to push a political agenda (or in any type of advertising for that matter) should be illegal.

Re:They all do this (3, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 2 months ago | (#47180657)

What about citizens grouping together, pooling their money, and then using the pooled money to speak? What organizational form should that take, if not a corporation (usually not-for-profit)?

Let's turn that around for a minute: Why should such groups get the privileged status afforded by incorporation, including things like limited liability and favorable tax treatment?

If all the groups advocating for this "organized" free speech were general partnerships [wikipedia.org] where each member was actually responsible for the group's actions and kept on a level playing field with individuals, that would be one thing. But that's not what's going on here! Instead, the assholes who control these groups want special treatment that places them above individual citizens.

Re:They all do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178867)

I wouldn't be one bit surprised to find out their paying actual citizens, customers or employees to go online and write emails to politicians, the FCC, and whoever else, or using those same people to send letter via USPS, so it has a legit address and name in order to peddle their bullshit. Watch that will be next, to get reported.

A little off topic and probably something /. know, Hillary Clinton and other politicians created censorship groups (there were 7 or 8 probably more now) who are 'concerned citizens' who watch, read, listen, to all forms of Media, so they can then send a couple thousand letters to the FCC, and politicians to push censorship. They are legit citizens but politicians and the FCC don't seem to care, and in fact know these letters are from those groups, between them and the press news media blaming everything on everyone besides themselves.

This tactic should be of concern when it comes to other subjects and issues, this "letter" is nothing new, but these companies have the resources to use this as a means to falsify what the public wants by using the public to peddle its nonsense.

Re:They all do this (1)

sasparillascott (1267058) | about 2 months ago | (#47179419)

So well said rabbin.

Ah so that explains it (1, Flamebait)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 months ago | (#47178683)

I thought it was just a bunch of libertarians and/or technologically illiterate businessmen.

Re:Ah so that explains it (1)

smartr (1035324) | about 2 months ago | (#47179351)

I'd recommend asking the libertarians:
A. Do you think Comcast sucks, not just for terrible quality support, but for extorting money from the people you already paid them for the privilege of communicating with a la Netflix? If you desire access to the fastest connection available, Comcast is your provider in most of the country. Should not paying for the highest bandwidth access contractually cover your connecting with whoever you damn well please without Comcast extorting money from the endpoint you are communicating with?
B. Comcast is given exclusive rights to use those lines through local governments. This is the case with pretty much all the cable companies. How do you feel about this collusion?
C. The wires and airspace frequencies are given a free pass through private property. Why shouldn't private property owners use the wires on their land how they wish?
D. Do you think Comcast sucks? Do you have any actual plans that have a chance in hell of working besides telling people to move across the country or swap to a slower connection?

News? (1)

h4x0t (1245872) | about 2 months ago | (#47178693)

Is this news? This has and always will happen until it is made an illegal practice.

Re:News? (1)

ficuscr (1585141) | about 2 months ago | (#47179753)

I think making it illegal will be difficult. I look at it as reinforcing our need for good news/information sources so we can hopefully see through the bull shit. Unfortunately as we see a rise in propaganda and "AstroTurfing" we are also seeing the demise of independent quality news media. Very scary that these monolithic companies are also the ones that bring most of us the news. When we can't even determine that "Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality" because no one reports on it, and the reporting simply reflects these corporations stance on issues, then our democracy will really be kaput.

that's not "astroturfing" (4, Informative)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47178705)

Astroturfing is when organizations pretend to be grassroots, community organizations but are clandestinely funded by corporate interests. There is nothing clandestine about the funding for Broadband for America; it's a PR and lobbying organization that consists of a lot of big businesses and some little businesses:

http://www.broadbandforamerica... [broadbandforamerica.com]

I don't see why people get their panties in a knot about companies presenting their point of view publicly; you can listen to their arguments and either agree with them or disagree with them.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2, Insightful)

nhstar (452291) | about 2 months ago | (#47178823)

Lately I find that, more and more, the mentality is "Either you're with us, or you're EVIL!" and this is just proof of that... Instead of presenting a divergent view, it's easier to plaster such organizations with hate and malicious intent, forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

I'm not advocating that this is the way it should be, just stating that, legally, this is the way that it is. Corporations aren't ~allowed~ to consider "the greater good" over that profit, so long as they're not doing greater harm. And I mean actual harm, not just perceived or "being kept down by the man" harm.

$0.02

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47178975)

forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

Note that that isn't automatically in conflict with the interests of the rest of society. For example, Uber and Lyft advocate for increasing their own wealth, but in the process they also advocate breaking up taxi cartels and lowering transportation costs.

forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

Not all corporations are doing that. Corporations are just legal entities by which citizens work together. Many corporations are not-for-profit, and both not-for-profit and for-profit corporations may have goals and priorities other than increasing wealth.

If a bunch of people really don't like some politician's political views, they can form a corporation (not-for-profit usually, but not necessarily), pool their money, and run ads against those political views. Well, they can now, they didn't use to be able to. That's what Citizens United was: a not-for-profit making a film critical of Hillary.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (1)

RandomFactor (22447) | about 2 months ago | (#47179259)

Corporations aren't ~allowed~ to consider "the greater good" over that profit,

http://www.newegg.com/Product/... [newegg.com] Granted, in retrospect, this looks like it turned into a good marketing move, but going into it, the history of such things would have indicated this was going to be little more than a money pit.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (3, Interesting)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 2 months ago | (#47179683)

forgetting that the corporations are only doing what they're chartered to do: using every resource to increase wealth for their share-holders.

Corporations aren't ~allowed~ to consider "the greater good" over that profit,

Except that CEOs can do practically ANYTHING and justify it as "increasing wealth for the share-holders".

Here we go:
1) Fire everyone, sell everything, liquidate like it's 1999. This increases the bottom-line of the company and makes it easy to increase the wealth of the shareholders (effectively removing the risk of not knowing what the stock is worth, do all that liquidation and you have a definite value the stock can be compared against)

2) Go into debt, hire a shit-ton of scientists, designers, artist, whoever to invest in the product so that next year/decade they'll be able to corner the market, bring in more money, and increase wealth for the shareholders.

3) Dodge all taxes as it leaves more money for the shareholders

4) Pay all the taxes as it removes the risk of the government coming in a busting up the company, shattering the wealth of the shareholders.

5) Pissing it all away on hookers and blow. "Hey, I'm a high-powered businessman, I make you the money. Walk away, leave me in charge, and you'll get your quarterly gains (as long as the economy is still booming)."

6) Axing all of the top skill and people with connections in the business. They're just doing lines of blow. It's not like we really need that guy whose mother is running the government regulator, I'm sure she'll be professional. Removing this overhead increases wealth for the shareholders.

All of that happens and in some cases is even the smart thing to do. If you think corporations are somehow LEGALLY REQUIRED to curb-stomp you, then you have no flipping clue what happens in the business world.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178937)

The problem is that governing bodies like the FCC or your Congress-person can only work with opinions that they know. You can't take a poll of public opinion every time you want to make a decision, and polls are horribly unreliable anyway.

The people that have to make the decisions only hear from the people that are concerned enough about a problem to contact them and personally tell them what they think. However, most actual concerned citizens are not paid to provide their opinion and find it a hassle to have to tell someone every time they agree or disagree with something (on the Internet, I know, but most sites now require you to sign up to leave a comment and who wants to do that all the time?), and there's no guarantee that enough people who feel the same way will get on board (ex: voting). On the other side, the corporations are more than willing to pay many people, or even more preferably a company that employs many people for this exact purpose, to voice the company's opinions en masse.

This is the entire problem with lobbyists. Their opinions don't always or even usually represent the common interest, but when they're providing the majority of the opinions that the people that get to make decisions get to hear, the people that get to make the decisions come to believe that they are also representing the majority (see the problem with polls earlier).

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (3, Interesting)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 2 months ago | (#47178939)

Well, the story here is that things like "Broadband for America, a coalition of 300 Internet consumer advocates, content providers and engineers" don't sound like "Broadband of America, an organization sponsored mostly by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and the likes."

Attaching the former is disingenuous, as it mischaracterizes the organisation as being some kind of collective of consumer-oriented institutes. Of course, technically it doesn't say that, but most people are too oblivious to read between the lines of such a statement. So clearly, people become misinformed due to tactics such as these. What do you suggest we do to fix this misinformation?

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (3, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47179083)

Attaching the former is disingenuous, as it mischaracterizes the organisation as being some kind of collective of consumer-oriented institutes

Yes, it's "disingenuous", but it's not Broadband for America's disingenuity because they didn't write that; that's how the SFGate byline characterizes BFA, so you should blame SFGate.

What do you suggest we do to fix this misinformation?

Shut down SFGate or the Hearst Corporation? Nuke all of SF from orbit ("it's the only way to be sure")? Create a politburo or a Minitruth? I dunno, you tell me what you're willing to do in the name of "fixing misinformation".

Personally, I'd do nothing. Although SFGate writes a lot of nonsense, and lots of people (hello there) seem to be eating up that nonsense, ultimately, I believe in free speech, including the ability of people to counter nonsense spewed by big corporate entities like the Hearst Corporation (SFGate).

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (1)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 2 months ago | (#47179587)

so you should blame SFGate.

Don't make this about who's to blame. This is about public misinformation actively promoted by corporate interests and how and whether to counter it. Whether that SFGate, BfA or a combination of those two drives the misinformation is irrelevant.

Personally, I'd do nothing.

That says enough about you. But thanks for answering the question honestly.

I dunno, you tell me what you're willing to do in the name of "fixing misinformation".

How about defending an article exposing said misinformation [vice.com] ? (Yes, The Fucking Article)

As opposed to implying that what's going on is just "companies presenting their point of view publicly" and people "[getting] their panties in a knot about [it]".

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47179991)

How about defending an article exposing said misinformation? (Yes, The Fucking Article)

You would defend an incorrect accusation? Vice is accusing BFA of astroturfing when BFA in fact did not astroturf; their accusation of astroturfing is based on an incorrect statement in SFGate's article.

Whether that SFGate, BfA or a combination of those two drives the misinformation is irrelevant.

I see. So because Vice picks up an incorrect accusation of astroturfing by SFGate, BFA becomes an astroturfer. Well, thanks for clearing that up. I think we had that sort of reasoning in the McCarthy era.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47178999)

Right, I was a bit confused by this as well. When did we suddenly forget what Astroturfing was?

This is exactly what corporate regulatory affairs departments are for. Every company and charity out there does this. The corporations owners/shareholders have 1st amendment rights to. They're free to donate to whatever lobbying groups they think they should.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 2 months ago | (#47179171)

I don't see why people get their panties in a knot about companies presenting their point of view publicly; you can listen to their arguments and either agree with them or disagree with them.

There is a difference between presenting your point of view publicly and manipulating public opinion. These types of groups do not exist to give a fair and open view of their position. They exist to sway your opinion through appeals to fear and emotion (You'll pay more! You'll lose your freedom!). They will distort, withhold information, and pay off experts all in order to cause you to think a certain way.

So it's not really a matter of two or more views being honestly presented for people to evaluate. It's a matter of interested parties trying to got people to think a certain way, using deception, obfuscation and half-truths to do it.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47179363)

They exist to sway your opinion through appeals to fear and emotion (You'll pay more! You'll lose your freedom!).

I don't understand what you're trying to say. The question of whether we want or don't want net neutrality is about how much we pay and how much freedom we have, on both sides of the argument.

It's a matter of interested parties trying to got people to think a certain way, using deception, obfuscation and half-truths to do it.

And which of the two sides is using "deception, obfuscation, and half-truths" is determined by who? You? The courts?

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (2)

Dr. Donuts (232269) | about 2 months ago | (#47179747)

I don't think that people get upset about companies presenting their view. What they get upset about is the outsized voice the corporations can afford to buy. The corporate view is given far greater weight than the views of the public at large in political discourse. Since corporations have far more money than the public to spend on lobbying and advertising, and throw on for added measure campaign contributions in an effort to sway politicians to the corporate view, the result is quite predictable in that laws get passed and regulations written that favor corporations over the public interest.

Since our political process is representative, corporations can largely ignore the public and apply direct pressure to the political representatives themselves.

Of course, this is why there are many calls to reform lobbying and campaign laws to prevent those with greater financial resources from being able to essentially buy that outsized voice.

Re:that's not "astroturfing" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47180105)

The corporate view is given far greater weight than the views of the public at large in political discourse.

"Is given greater weight" by who? What does that even mean?

Since corporations have far more money than the public to spend on lobbying and advertising, and throw on for added measure campaign contributions in an effort to sway politicians to the corporate view, the result is quite predictable in that laws get passed and regulations written that favor corporations over the public interest.

So, what you want is what we might call a "people's republic", a democratic system in which mainly "the people" have a voice, not corporations or other special interest groups that might advocate views counter to the interests of "the people".

There have been several attempts to create democracies that; I suggest you look up what happened to them.

Dingo Babysitter (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178735)

This weekend, I think I am going to hire a Dingo to watch my kids...

As long as it is clear ... (2, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | about 2 months ago | (#47178739)

As long as it is clear who is making these claims against net neutrality, there is nothing terribly wrong with it.

There are, of course, issues. There are issues with politicians and governmental bodies refusing to listen to certain groups because of conflict of interest or inherent bodies (e.g. funding or other industry ties). There are issues with the industry having an inequitable amount of funding to pursue lobbying. (In essence, they are using revenues generated by consumers to lobby against the interests of consumers.)

But as long as it is clear where the message is coming from, such as the composition of a group's membership and where it obtains its funding, they have as much right to present their perspective as anyone else. It is really up to the recipient of these letters to assess the validity of the claims based upon the evidence and their independence. (For instance, I would consider any survey presented by an industry group to be heavily biased since the wording of such surveys or their target demographic can distort the results.)

Re:As long as it is clear ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179007)

So which industry group are 'you' shilling for?

The principle of the USA (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178741)

... fake citizen groups ...

It is government of the [common] people, by the [fake] people, for the [rich] people. Sounds legit.

Where is this masquerade exactly? (-1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 2 months ago | (#47178747)

I don't quite get how this counts as a masquerade of any kind. Anyone who knows anything about net neutrality - Chairman Wheeler included - would know that the ISPs do not want to be reclassified as common carriers. The letter by Sununu and Ford is clearly written by two members of Congress who are deep in the pockets of Big Telecom. At no point does it call Broadband for America a "consumer advocacy group" or suggest that they're consumer advocates in any way. The only mention of consumer advocacy was added by an SF Gate editor to explain where the letter came from. The SF Gate even mentions that both Sununu and Ford are members of Broadband for America. If anything, it looks like the SF Gate didn't do the research and labeled Broadband for America a consumer advocacy group. However, look at how they wrote it:

"Broadband for America, a coalition of 300 Internet consumer advocates, content providers, and engineers."

It sounds to me like whichever editor greenlit that letter for publication had no idea who Broadband for America were, so they went to the organization's website and looked at some of the people who are part of it (BforA has that on their website), then looked up Wikipedia articles for those people. They weren't willing to do the digging for an opinion piece.

Re:Where is this masquerade exactly? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 2 months ago | (#47178877)

In addition, even when for-profit companies claim to act as "consumer advocates", that isn't automatically wrong. For example, I think when Uber and Lyft try to destroy the taxi cartel, they are also acting as "consumer advocates".

What did you expect? (1)

lbmouse (473316) | about 2 months ago | (#47178951)

"Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple greedy goons. These are people of the trade group world. The common clay of the new Wall Street. You know... morons.

America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47178963)

.... f**k no!

So glad I live in the UK

Re:America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179165)

While we do have more choice in the UK do you really think Virgin, BT & Sky won't like the idea of charging websites more (like they tried to do to the BBC because of the iplayer service).

bulk? / Typo? (1)

blibbo (928752) | about 2 months ago | (#47179115)

I don't get it. Is there a mistake in the summary? 2 million is not the bulk of 3.5 billion (out by a few orders of magnitude). I also followed the "$2 million donation" link but I couldn't see these numbers on the web page.

Re: bulk? / Typo? (1)

blibbo (928752) | about 2 months ago | (#47179151)

Scratch that, I guess I misread it; sleepy eyes and sleepy brain

Re:bulk? / Typo? (1)

click2005 (921437) | about 2 months ago | (#47179235)

Its 3.5 million (not billion).

The $2 million is mentioned on page 26 of the tax filing.

The US is effed (0)

runeghost (2509522) | about 2 months ago | (#47179125)

This sort of thing is going to continue until the only way the public can fight back in violence, which will be terrible for everyone. :-(

BFD-- The others do the same thing (2)

cornicefire (610241) | about 2 months ago | (#47179189)

Google gives millions to groups that -- surprise, surprise-- fight for "net neutrality". So does Netflix. What does "net neutrality" mean? We shouldn't be surprised that these groups fight to make it easier for Google and Netflix to make money without having to share it with the cable companies. This is how business is done. The only thing naive about this article is that it pretends that only the cable companies are astroturfing. The EFF is one big astroturf factory for the Google.

Massive slant (0)

NetNed (955141) | about 2 months ago | (#47179245)

The reporter has a massive slant and I suspect a political agenda when he slams the DCI group as "infamous". Clearly he is a democrat that wants to demonize all things corporate and all things Republican.

I am surprised more do not see the whole "net neutrality" thing for what it really is. Content providers don't want to pay for the bandwidth they use to make money on. It would also, much like current "regulated" utilities create a monopoly were price would be controlled and competition would be none. That's way all these companies don't want this because they do not want to be locked out of markets where regulation would decide who the "main" providers are.

Re:Massive slant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179751)

Content providers pay for their bandwidth.
You and I pay for ours.
But now it seems our ISPs want to charge the content providers for our bandwidth.

Re:Massive slant (1)

NetNed (955141) | about 2 months ago | (#47180301)

At peak times netflix accounts for 30% of all traffic on the internet. It isn't like there is a magical bandwidth fairy that can up the capacity of a ISP's network the second it gets taxed. I think the whole idea of net neutrality and a more free, open internet are total opposites. And since when did the internet become a fundamental right of all US citizens?

Shockingly, with all the NSA issues that have abounded over the last year, why would anyone think getting the government involved would led to more open and free anything?

Re:Massive slant (1)

DaveSewhuk (1271928) | about 2 months ago | (#47180517)

Content providers don't want to pay for the bandwidth they use to make money on.

If the bottleneck is at Netflix to the internet connection this would be true. If packets drop at the ISP fence because they cannot deliver them, then the problem is the ISP. I suspect Netflix watches where the packets drop and it isn't on their end. If they can send them they payed for them. That in a nutshell is the definition of net neutrality.

I think the USA Internet should get some changes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47180545)

I think the issue is that customers are stupid, customer support is expensive, and most people use far less data, than they legally could, until Netflix. ISPs realized, they could just say 'unlimited internet', and people wouldn't call to ask questions, and they wouldn't get close to using unlimited internet, until Netflix came along.

In spite of the claims of high bandwidth needed for 'innovation', TV and piracy are the only two popular, high bandwidth applications that have emerged. TV and pirated materials were already proven demand for bandwidth, so I would argue that no new uses for high bandwidth have been found, and thus no innovation.

ISPs should be required to sell access to their local networks, to avoid paying to send stuff over the internet. I should be able to buy Comcast New York City network access, Verizon Los Angeles network access, or AT&T Chicago network access.

That assumes that the internet companies are interested new ways of business, instead of merely increasing control and demanding more money.... The last year has made me think 'nationalize the bastards'.

Neutralize this, Commander Spork! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179423)

If the cable and telco companies want to scrap net neutrality
and apply traffic controls by packet inspection, they should
lose every semblence of common carrier status and be held
personally(1) liable for all traffic passing through their pipes.

"Can you say, 'shitfest', little one?"

--
(1) Corporations are people after all, right?

Re:Neutralize this, Commander Spork! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179481)

Damn straight, you ol' astroturfers, you!

NET NEUTRALITY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179695)

Let's be clear. Net neutrality originally means "Leave the Internet alone". because it's been working fine for many years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

BUT... Mr. Obama and the FCC came up with a plan to seize control over the Internet, and they called their plan "Net Neutrality"; the SAME NAME, but entirely different meaning. They like everybody to believe its about protecting you from the mean ISP, but they don't mention everything ELSE that it does.

Under the FCC's "Net Neutrality", the FCC would have governing authority over the ISPs and over some of the types of data that flow on the Internet.
The ISPs would be required to record your internet activity and keep it for a specific amount of time, that way, government agencies could simply ask them for it without any warrant, and you would not even be aware of it.

ISPs would not be able to throttle your bandwidth back by 20% when you access Netflix. Instead they will be able to charge you 20% more money to access it.

The FCC would also be able to apply their rules at will onto any ISP, without oversight. It would be directly under the authority of the President. And if you think he is abusing his executive orders now, you ain't seen nothing.

Obama will be able to force international treaties on the American people. It's technically illegal for him to do that, but with the Internet under his control, it will happen anyway. Soon, you won't be able to express your opinion because it offends somebody in another country. You won't be able to speak against Islam, or government. Legally Obama is required to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and so these treeties he enters into are not binding on American's on American soil, because a lot of provisions violate that, but he is handing control of the Internet to others all over the world.

There are several false flags claiming "Net Neutrality" is for you, but it's not. They want you to visit the FCC web site and fill out a petition, but it's a trick to win support for THEIR version of "Net Neutrality". Even a group of people claiming to be "Anonymous" started a "Reset the Net" campaign, but they want you to visit a web site and register. Anonymous NEVER does that, hince the name.

Folks, we are out of time. You need to immediately seize control over your own communications, become your own ISP and bypass or at least piggy back without the knowledge or control of government or ISPs. You need to encrypt communications (trust the math). Air Chat is one such option. Groups of people established packet radio relays for the Occupy Wall Street movement, so do some research.

We are Anonymous.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.

by funding opinion pieces and letters that masque (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47179875)

just like their partner's in crime, the demonrats.

Think next time, before you vote, children!

I someone is paid ... (2)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47180185)

... to produce such material, doesn't that make them a lobbyist? Don't they have to register as such and divulge that fact when producing any correspondence, advertising copy, or press releases and editorial comment? IANAL, but the regulations applying to the big boys on K Street can be easily circumvented if thy don't also apply to individuals who take a couple of bucks to sign and send a boilerplate letter to government officials. And such a loophole needs to be plugged.

I knew it! (1)

Andrio (2580551) | about 2 months ago | (#47180191)

This explains the occasional anti-net neutrality post you see in these net neutrality discussions. No one—and I mean no one—other than someone with a financial interest would ever oppose net neutrality.

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