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Cable Companies Duped Community Groups Into Fighting Net Neutrality 170

walterbyrd (182728) writes Last week, it transpired that the big cable companies were bankrolling fake consumer groups like Broadband for America and The American Consumer Institute. These 'independent consumer advocacy groups' are, in truth, nothing of the sort, and instead represent the interests of its benefactors, in the fight against net neutrality. If that wasn't bad enough, VICE is now reporting that several of the real community groups (and an Ohio bed-and-breakfast) that were signed up as supporters of Broadband for America were either duped into joining, or were signed up to the cause without their consent or knowledge.
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Cable Companies Duped Community Groups Into Fighting Net Neutrality

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @06:31AM (#47220547) Journal
    Arguably, it's a bit of a hybrid phenomenon: neither pure misinformation nor pure purchase:

    A large number of these assorted 'community' interest groups; are both relatively impecunious and relatively minimally informed, or interested, in the details of issues outside their mission area. It would be relatively trivial to, say, tell the group representing rural hospitals in Texas (one of the ones mentioned in TFA) that what's good for Comcast is good for rural internet access (this might even be true, since a time-honored technique for bargaining with the FCC is to promise to provide coverage to some totally uneconomic rural areas in exchange for the right to squeeze the much more numerous customers in some more profitable and denser markets. Going all the way back to the Communications Act of 1934, telling the FCC that you'll wire Podunkistan is approximately the equivalent of telling them that you love them for who they are, and generally about as honest.)

    It is also the case that telcos and cable outfits, as with most large corporations, have 'philanthropic' arms, and here the 'bought and paid for' aspect takes on a greater role than the 'duped'. Some outfit that does gang-prevention for at-risk youth or some similar more-or-less-unrelated-to-broadband mission really has no business signing up pro or con; but if their operating budget is peanuts, and Comcast is kicking in part of it, it would be only polite to return the favor, no?

    The one other aspect to keep in mind, specifically with telcos and cable companies, is the role of their employee structure: If you want to build infrastructure, nationwide, you need a lot of workers, including a lot of blue collar, tradesmen, and the like. Even if, in the long run, those workers might be better off in a more competitive climate(more laying cable and new service rollouts, which benefit the linesmen and splicers and bucket trucks, less buying fancy appliances from Cisco and Sandvine to wring more revenue out of legacy infrastructure), those workers can still answer "What has Comcast done for me?" a lot more easily than "What has Netflix done for me?", or any of the other internet-using companies, who tend to have relatively small, largely high-skill white collar, employee bases concentrated in a few specific locations.

    This 'roots in the community' aspect is a nontrivial advantage: Somebody like Google or Netflix has customers in the community; but customers tend to be disorganized, and to perceive only small benefits, per company(though public backlash on net neutrality has been fairly strong, by the standards of policy wonkery, so they aren't totally ignorant of the value of the internet); but they only have employees, presence, relationships with local charities and Little League teams and such, in a few specific areas, if at all. A cable company or telco, though, has (although the name on the HQ may have changed a few times) been employing linesmen, trenchers, and service, maintenance, and field-tech people of all levels from 'guy with shovel' up through 'skilled tradesman' and 'local guru on freak issues with cable head-ends' for decades, and a fair few of them: Cable started rolling out ~1950, POTS predates 1900. Unless you are an utter failure at PR, or just a real, real, asshole, turning that into relatively broad-based influence over local 'good causes' should be an easy and natural process, however counterproductive you are to the long term interests of your customers.
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:14AM (#47220927)
    oblig. FoxTrot []
  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:18AM (#47220961) Homepage

    Hello, there. I'm part of that community you deny exists.

    I think Snowden did something damned near treason. It's obvious that he broke the law and jeopardized aspects of national security, but the issue of mens rea is still in question. No evidence has been presented (other than his word and the government's assertions) that he was or was not acting for the benefit of society. Resolving that question is one of the primary functions of a trial, which is why I think a trial should be held. As it stands now, the victim of a crime has been denied due process, and the Slashdot hivemind is happy about it.

    I also think smoking is a right, in the more general case that I believe people should be permitted to mutilate their bodies however they wish, at whatever personal expense they wish. That might mean using alcohol or other drugs, or engaging in risky behaviors like skydiving, automobile racing, or bacon eating. However, I also believe their costs to society should be suitably offset so that their choices do not cause harm to society as a whole, and their damaging activities should be isolated appropriately so that uninvolved bystanders cannot be harmed.

    I'm not a paid shill. I just think a little bit before jumping on board with everything the dear hivemind thinks.

  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:21AM (#47220975)

    Along with corporate "astroturfing" in the blogs and message boards of various sorts, I'm afraid. We've never been completely free from concealed or fraudulent advertising, but the fake "grassroots" campaigns have gotten out of hand. Even the "Tea Party" was apparently founded as an astroturf campain, with the concealed funding by Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers. The Guardian did an excellent article about it at []: it might have been very, very difficult to print that in any of the Rupert Murdoch owned American newspapers.

  • Re:Maybe (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:28AM (#47221025)
    Except 1) No US paper would listen to Snowden 'forcing' him to go to the Guardian UK. 2) It's not 'investigative journalism' when someone hands the reporter everything he needs... it's just lazy journalism as usual. Except in this case the reporter gets a book deal too.
  • by kilodelta ( 843627 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @10:09AM (#47221791) Homepage
    A pretty good swath of the population of the U.S. is essentially as dumb as a box of rocks.

    So it's pretty easy to see how they could be manipulated into supporting something that was not in their best interest.
  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @10:09AM (#47221795)

    The "500 channel universe" of niche channels didn't pan out. The History Channel is now about pawn shops. There's simply not enough actual original content to supply the number of channels out there by genre, and certainly not enough money to start making those shows.

  • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <> on Thursday June 12, 2014 @10:48AM (#47222087) Journal
    This. And so much of the reason he's been a disappointment has more to do with congress than with him. He wasn't the one gutting his own health care bill, was he? Mind you, he completely lacks any of the kind of influence required to sway the opinions of our representatives and bring them back in line with that the general populace wants; but, then, that being necessary in the first place if a failing of congress, not the presidency.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN