Hello, Netcompetition.org: Does Working for a Telco/Cable Front Group Fog Your Reasoning?

We are flabbergasted—but not surprised—that the forces supporting monopolization and consolidation of the U.S. digital broadband pipeline will resort to practically any argument to shore up their poorly grounded rationale against network neutrality safeguards. Take, for example, a recent post by Scott Cleland at the so-called netcompetition.org. He attempts to use the Google deal with News Corp.’s MySpace.com as an example of the search giant’s hypocrisy. Cleland terms Google a “search-opolist,” since—in his view—they have entered into an exclusive agreement to serve MySpace’s advertising needs. Such a deal, however, has no relation with what netcompetition.org backers have in mind. They wish to fundamentally control the evolution of the entire U.S. digital media system (wired and wireless) so they can profit from “triple play” and beyond. They plan to ensure their (or affiliated) content, search engines, social networking and gaming sites are given a fast ride—while others are left in an uncompetitive and undemocratic digital sphere.

The MySpace deal should be sounding alarm bells about the further commercialization of our culture—and how young people are seen as nothing more than “brand breeders.” But the deal also underscores why we need to have Congress restore Internet Freedom rules now. So we can give the public access to a wide range of interactive services that don’t try to control our web travels and also further commodify our eyeballs, clicks and democratic souls.

PS: We think it strange that Mr. Cleland ignores the history of the open access broadband fight (the precursor to network neutrality), including his own calls on Congress to enact safeguards. He shouldn’t treat the issue as if it was something new. In fact, during the open access debate, Mr. Cleland warned Congress that “market forces alone are not enough to develop or sustain competition in telecommunications” (his emphasis). He told the Senate Commerce Committee that “[W]ithout required open-access of local broadband access platforms in the increasingly complex market for broadband bundles, competitive forces won’t develop sufficiently or rapidly enough to ensure that consumers are offered maximum choice and protection from anticompetitive pricing of broadband vertical services.” He also said that it was “naïve to believe that market forces alone will eventually open the cable network to competition. It does not square with past experience or market reality.” [Source: Written Testimony of Scott C. Cleland, Managing Director of The Legg Mason Precursor Group. November 8, 1999. Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Hearing on Telecommunications Mergers.]

PPS: Here’s another one of our favorite—keep those pipes open—quotes from Mr. Cleland. From the Washington Post.

“To Scott Cleland, an analyst with Legg Mason Precursor Group, the special treatment that allows cable operators to shut out other providers follows neither history nor logic. “Cable is the fifth wire into America’s homes,” Cleland says. “The principle of nondiscrimination applies to the other four. The electric company cannot tell you what kind of brand of appliance to buy, the gas company can’t tell you what kind of furnace or stove to buy. The water company can’t tell you what kind of faucet or sink to buy. The telephone company can’t tell you what kind of or brand of phone to buy or who to do business with over your phone. Why should cable?” [Source: “How Much Room In the Fat Pipe?” John Schwartz. September 19, 1999; Page H01].

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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