Last week, I wrote a diary about how US Cable and Telco firms were caught astroturfing up support for their shell "advocacy group" Broadband for America. We saw how they hired groups specializing in the creation of fake consumer groups, and listed more that were simply fronts for telecommunications companies.
Well, not all of those groups were fake.
And not all of them support Broadband for America's message.
Lee Fang, the author of the VICE article that broke the story last week about BfA's astroturfing, is back this today with even more shocking news: Many of those groups didn't sign up to be listed as cheering on the death of Net Neutrality.
What do an environmental group in Ohio, a small military radio program, and a network of rural hospitals in Texas all have in common? They appear on a list of coalition members for a group pressuring the government to abandon net neutrality—rules to prevent broadband providers from creating internet fast and slow lanes—but claim they did not intend to sign up for any such advocacy.Oops. Even when Broadband for America can get actual groups to support it that they didn't astroturf up...it turns out they don't actually support Broadband for America.
Bob Calvert, the host of TalkingWithHeroes.com, a radio program listed as a Broadband for American member, told us that he is not familiar with the net-neutrality debate.
Another Broadband for America member, the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, said it had joined only to support broadband access in rural and underserved areas, not on issues relating to net neutrality or the classification of broadband as a utility.
Don Hollister, the executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters, said he was unaware of his organization being listed as a Broadband for America member.
Other groups we contacted were simply confused. "I'm not aware of them and I pay all the bills. I've never heard of Broadband for America," replied Keith Jackson, an accountant with the Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn.Towards the end of the article, Broadband for America's actions are neatly summed up:
"Broadband for America is well practiced in the art of fooling people," says Tim Karr, senior director of strategy for Free Press. "Like other astroturf groups that have entered the debate over the future of the internet, BFA has erected a scrim of public-interest rhetoric to hide its true intentions: pushing the policy objectives of the nation's largest phone and cable companies. Sadly, the debate over issues like net neutrality and municipal Wi-Fi has been polluted by many such operations."This, sadly enough, isn't even the first time cable, wireless, and telco firms have done this, and it isn't the first issue either. See, AT&T, in the past, got "The Latino Coalition" to endorse their attempted merger with T-Mobile.
Comcast has gotten US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to say that they're in favor of them buying Time Warner Cable. Only cost 'em $320,000.
In an article from 2008, an anonymous source is quoted in an article about how this sort of astroturfing happens via slimy DC firms like the DCI Group:
"You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them.... You say, 'I can't use this one--I already used them last time...' We had their letterhead. We'd just write the letter. We'd fax it to them and tell them, 'You're in favor of this.'"Well, there's one thing they can't do -- and that's counter the voices of millions of us that want an open, content and source-neutral Internet.
They'll keep trying to own our future and tell us who we can get our information from and how fast we can get it. Comment to the FCC. Sign the petition linked in the above paragraph. Don't let them win.