Vice
Vice

Ever since the FCC reclassified Internet service providers as common carriers subject to Title II regulation, so-called consumer groups have been scrambling to write their own briefs to a D.C. federal appeals court in which they ask the court to vacate the FCC’s net neutrality rules. According to these groups, these new “regulations” will harm consumers and kill future investment.

For example, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) recently filed a 25-page brief with the D.C. Court of Appeals claiming that the net neutrality rules “would deeply harm the tens of millions of Americans not yet connected to broadband networks.”

Who is the MMTC? According to the MMTC filing to the Court:

MMTC was established as a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the media and telecommunications industries. MMTC performs civil rights advocacy, conducts research and analysis, particularly in the area of broadband Internet access services and broadband adoption, and regularly participates in FCC rulemaking proceedings. MMTC supports efforts to close the “digital divide” and bring broadband access to more people of color and other vulnerable populations.

That sounds great. Oh, except for one thing. The MMTC stands for none of the above ideas. They are simply a corporate-funded group that takes consistent strong stands in support of the telecom industry.

From 2009 through 2011, the MMTC received at least $725,000 in contributions and sponsorships from network neutrality foes including Verizon, Time Warner, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, according to MMTC tax filings and sponsorship lists. MMTC’s relationship with Verizon demonstrates the group’s various methods of obtaining industry revenue. – TechDirt

Then again, it must be a coincidence that on MMTC’s board of advisors is one of Comcast’s main political operatives, Joe Waz. Or how about the time that MMTC got a web-site to pull a story that detailed the absurdity of fake consumer groups trying to bash net neutrality rules.

Next, we have the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) who also filed their own brief to the DC Court voicing their warnings against the dangers of net neutrality. In it, the CEI claims multiple times that the net neutrality rules are simply a disguise for the FCC trying to regulate and over-take the internet.

The FCC has long wanted to be the federal agency that regulates access to the Internet. Lacking explicit statutory authority to regulate the Internet, the FCC has attempted to confer Internet regulatory authority upon itself under the guise of statutory construction.

According to their own filing, the CEI claims that they are a “public interest organization dedicated to the principles of limited constitutional government and free enterprise. CEI engages in research, education, litigation, and advocacy on a broad range of regulatory and constitutional issues.”

Washington Post
Washington Post

Fair enough. Who exactly pays the bills for CEI?

  • The Times reviewed documents showing Comcast or its trade organization funded several organizations that later sent pro-merger letters to the FCC. According to the Times, that list includes “Americans for Tax Reform, the American Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Policy Innovation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Free State Foundation, and the Center for Individual Freedom” as well as “a professor at a technology program at the University of Pennsylvania.” – TheVerge
  • Except the American Consumer Institute isn’t actually a consumer group. It’s an amalgamation of think tank reps pushing for corporate deregulation under the guise of consumer advocacy. A quick WhoIS notes that the ACI website is registered to Stephen Pociask, a telecom consultant and former chief economist for Bell Atlantic, who via groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, works as a public relations apparatus for paying corporate clients. – DSLReports

Is it any wonder that some have pegged groups like CEI as “sock puppets” for the telecom industry?

Lastly, we have the Free State Foundation, who filed their own comment to the FCC. In it, the FSF claims that net neutrality rules are really just “harmful, stringent regulations of broadband Internet services.” They also claim in the filing that ISP’s who have the ability to slow down certain web-sites (compared to others who have an agreement with the ISP) is a good thing for consumers. Yes, that is actually one of their arguments.

In their comment, the FSF claims that they are an “independent, nonpartisan free market-oriented think tank.” Let’s discuss that a little more. Would it really shock you to know that the FSF’s budget largely comes from the wireless and cable industry?

According to tax filings by two cable and wireless lobbying groups, the Free State Foundation has cashed almost a half a million dollars in checks written by the following groups in the last five years. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) paid FSF $280,000. The wireless lobby, represented by CTIA-The Wireless Association, managed $213,000 in contributions. – StopTheCap

Then there was PCWorld giving FSF an “F” for donor transparency.

Is it really that much to ask that those who are funded by the companies themselves declare such on official court filings?