Fearful that there is a growing call for Internet safeguardsâ€”especially with yesterdayâ€™s kick-off of the Save the Internet coalitionâ€”the Bells have mobilized their assorted and paid for cronies to do damage control. Flurries of press releases were issued, by such groups as FreedomWorks, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Phoenix Center and the â€œHands off the Internet Coalition.â€ AT&T and Verizon must be feeling desperateâ€”which is a good sign that the new coalition of Left to Right advocates and leading Internet experts are having a real impact.
But itâ€™s time that everyone recognized that free market self-styled emperor Dick Armey has noâ€”wellâ€”letâ€™s just say he could audition for one of those X rated movies. In yesterdayâ€™s FreedomWorks release, Armey rants that â€œNet Neutrality allows the government to run all over basic property rights.â€ Yet, as a leading legislator, Mr. Armey has called for government intervention to ensure an open, competitive and more democratic media environment.
Four years ago, then House Majority Leader Armey worked to enact federal media diversity rules. Armeyâ€™s bill would have required the government to force media companies to divest newspapers or TV stations. In a situation that reflects the concerns of the current network neutrality debate, Armey was livid over the media and political power one media companyâ€”Beloâ€”had in his district. (Armey blamed Belo for his sonâ€™s electoral loss in a bid to replace him.). Armeyâ€™s legislation would have statutorily required Belo to sell one of its prime outlets, such as its Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV. Preventing such concentration of media control, Armey told the American Journalism Review, was â€œan important issue. It goes to the strength of our democracy.â€ Armeyâ€™s spokesperson at the time explained that “In America, the press is responsible for informing the public and providing a forum for free debate … In this case, this particular corporation has almost a stranglehold on Mr. Armey’s constituency in Mr. Armey’s district.”
Now that he has to raise money from private interests, such as the phone companies, perhaps Mr. Armey is too busy to recall his recent public outcry for media safeguards to promote freedom of expression. But the anti-open Internet position of FreedomWorks would give such a â€œstrangleholdâ€ over the flow of digital media to its phone company supporters.
Finally, the shrill cry from Bell supporters reminds us that who pays the piper gets them to sing the tune. The National Black Chamber of Commerce issued a release yesterday opposed to an open Internet. They failed to acknowledge that AT&T (SBC), Bell South, and Verizon are financial supporters of the group. The Hands Off Coalitionâ€”backed by AT&Tâ€”should rename itself in the spirit of truth in advertising: The `Itâ€™s AT&Tâ€™s Pipesâ€™ Front-Group.
PS. CDD is a member of the Save the Internet group. Kudos to Free Press and company for organizing it.