CDT’s Misguided—and Bell and Cable Monopoly Friendly—Approach to Net Neutrality

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has long been part of the political support system for the communications industry. Although it considers itself a public interest group, CDT has ultimately served the interests of its many corporate funders (AT&T, Doubleclick, Verizon. Acxion, Time Warner, etc.) Indeed, the group backed away from the network neutrality issue several years ago (then known as “open access”) because, in the words of one CDT executive, “our funders would kill us” if the group called for a truly open (let alone privacy protected) digital media system. CDT’s policy briefs and lobbying often enable its corporate supporters to achieve their political goals (including preventing unwanted legislation, such as safeguards. We think that in the case of CDT’s recent proposal on net neutrality, that’s what they are doing here. For it would fail to protect our (U.S.) digital media environment from being controlled by a tiny handful of broadband giants—AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon.

In this case, CDT [read their June 20 policy paper] would permit these monopolists to control the vast expanse of digital distribution that will likely deliver the majority of content to us. In its report, CDT says that “some basic rules requiring network operators to preserve nondiscrimination and openness” would only apply to “those portions of broadband networks dedicated to the Internet.” In other words, the vast majority of capacity used to deliver video and other multi-media content could likely be off-limits to any net neutral safeguards. The phone and cable companies claim they are building private networks—where broadband applications may not traverse over what is considered the “public Internet.” Hence the need, in our view, for far-reaching safeguards to ensure true Internet freedom. CDT also is opposed to any federal rule ensuring common carriage and price protections for consumers.

CDT would like to consider that its proposal is well founded, while others (such as the proponents of true network neutrality) engage in “public rhetoric.” This is also part of CDT’s modus operandi, with a “let’s make a deal we can broker on the Hill” mentality. One shouldn’t be fooled by CDT. What’s needed are strong rules across all digital platforms to ensure a democratic media system. Not—as CDT would have it—give us a small portion of capacity, while electronic privateers control most of the network.

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