Hands Off the Internet: Better Check Your Facts, Part.1

This front-group for the Internet monopoly want-to-be’s has a “back to school” lesson just posted about Quality of Service. But they are misinforming the public. This debate isn’t about true Quality of Service (QoS). Supporters of Internet Freedom (net neutrality) support QoS. But what Mike McCurry and Christopher Wolf’s funders really want is something more like OurQoS. That will give them a monopoly-like broadband service where their applications whiz by (helped via the network control mechanisms Hands Off member Alcatel is building for Verizon and AT&T). Their vision of OurQoS creates toll lanes and slow paths for everyone else. Ask your backers. What they are relying on for profits isn’t QoS. It’s really a “policy” based routing racket.

It’s the network neutrality folks who are fighting for fair traffic management. It’s the Hands Off types who want to allow privately run online traffic cops patrol the broadband beat. That’s why we will need Congress to restore the Internet’s non-discrimination safeguards.

What Comcast Uber-Lobbyist David Cohen’s Isn’t Saying about Net Neutrality

David Cohen is Comcast’s chief political lobbyist. His role is to help the company quash potential competition. Cohen operates in D.C., at state capitals, and city hall. When Comcast believes that competition will emerge, they call on Mr. Cohen. For example, Comcast played a major role in the passage of anti-public interest legislation in a number of states banning community broadband networks.

Now the Roberts family has set Mr. Cohen to undermine what is the biggest threat to the nation’s # 1 cable monopoly: an open Internet. Cohen just wrote an op-ed yesterday [registration required] in the San Jose Mercury News. He had the chutzpah to say that rules ensuring all online content is treated fairly would be harmful because they could stifle “a child friendly-content zone” online! This coming from one of the leading providers of porn—Comcast! Comcast has also just begun promoting some of its new on-demand channels, including Playboy, Howard Stern, and something called “Dating on Demand” (from its website: “our stealth crew of sneaky eavesdroppers trails close behind and captures everything on tape. And we mean everything — the good, the bad and the “Holy crap can you believe he did that!”).

So, when Mr. Cohen makes the phony charge that net neutrality would take channel space away from kids services or health information—what he really means is that Comcast wants to control all the space itself. It wants to use bandwidth/channel capacity so it can profit from porn and other high-revenue content. It doesn’t want any video or online competition to emerge that might take away eyeballs, ad dollars, and subscription revenues.

The truth is Comcast, like other net neutrality opponents AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner, are terrified of an open Internet. If the Net remains open, then anyone can provide phone or video service. Who would need a Comcast then? No one.

That’s why Comcast is opposed to net neutrality, and why it is buying next-generation broadband technology from Cisco. Comcast wants to serve as a gatekeeper over the flow of video and data coming into our homes. Net neutrality rules would prevent Comcast from becoming a digital super-monopoly.
Beware of cable lobbyists—they’re a hazard to our democracy’s health.

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].

Kill Bill: Steven’s Commerce Committee Posts “Tube” (I mean Telecom) Bill

Here’s an example of the narrow-minded, telecom lobbyist written, communications policies that undermine the development of a U.S. democratic media system in the digital era. Congress–as usual–doesn’t really want to acknowledge why the cable and telephone industry are so afraid of the Internet as we now know it (real competition for ideas and commercial advantage). Leaders such as Sen. Stevens have their heads in the digital sands. By letting a few narrow (but powerful) interests–such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner–dominate the distribution of digital media, Stevens/Joe Barton and company are undermining both democratic discourse and competition.
This is the marked-up bill passed by Senate Commerce. It should be called the “Telephone & Cable Monopoly Giveaway and Anti Consumer/Community Act of 2006.” We will be back soon with a full analysis. But it’s revealing that the U.S. public is treated as “subscribers” or “consumers”–not as citizens and others deserving a broad and expanded set of rights.
http:// www. commerce.senate.gov/public/_files/HR5252RS.pdf

PS: The Stevens Committee also released–and then pulled, we were told–a “brochure” promoting its bill. Sen. Stevens apparently feels desperate that his bill–and lack of understanding about how the Internet works–was getting so much bad press. I guess he–and his aides–don’t know much about PR either. Here’s the brochure.

Why Take AT&T’s $1 Mil. when it Wants to Destroy a Democratic ‘Net in the U.S.?

(we won’t comment yet. Just see news story below)

From: http://sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2006/07/31/daily5.html

AT&T Foundation gives $1 million for technology access
San Antonio Business Journal – 3:04 PM CDT Monday

The AT&T Foundation has announced a $1 million grant to provide new technology resources for people with all types of disabilities.

The grant to the Community Technology Centers’ Network (CTCNet) is part of a three-year AccessAll initiative by AT&T to provide technology access to underserved communities. It will be used to fund training for community technology center staff on universal design and assistive technology that can be used to accommodate multiple learning styles and abilities.

CTCNet will make the AT&T funds available to regional centers through a competitive application process.

(The grant) will enable CTCNet to work with our member centers to demonstrate standards in universal design for space, learning, hardware and software,” says Kavita Singh, executive director of CTCNet.

The AT&T Foundation is the philanthropic arm of San Antonio-based AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), one of the largest telecommunications holding companies in the world.

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Time Warner’s AOL: Bad Broadband Karma

No matter how Richard Parsons and company spin it, AOL is ultimately a loser. What the press coverage on AOL’s ever-changing business model ignores is that the online service doesn’t have legal access to broadband. AOL is frozen in digital time, able to offer most users only outmoded dial-up access. But AOL’s ignoble demise is fitting—given the company’s abandonment of its call for non-discriminatory “open access” to broadband (the key issue underlying today’s network neutrality debate).

It was AOL, after all, that led the corporate campaign in the late 1990’s calling on the Clinton FCC and the Congress to require non-discriminatory access for ISPs to cable broadband. AOL argued—as net neutrality proponents are today—that the Internet’s success had been based on federal policies requiring phone networks to serve everyone in a fair and open manner. AOL’s Steve Case understood that soon high-speed Internet service would replace dial-up and that cable systems would be the leading provider of broadband. Case desperately sought to have cable operate its Internet access service under the same federal policy safeguards that governed phone company dial-up. (He even backed a non-profit group called “No Gatekeepers”).

The cable industry, including Time Warner, used its political clout to prevent any policy that would have ensured the U.S. broadband system be operated in a non-discriminatory and more competitive manner. Recognizing that AOL would be shut out of broadband and that its future was doomed, it engineered a take-over of number two cable giant Time Warner. Both AOL’s Steve Case and Time Warner’s Gerry Levin shared a similar view for the future of the Internet—to turn it into an even more powerful advertising medium than television. To achieve this goal, Case quickly dropped his call for “open access” for broadband. He foolishly believed that by having AOL merge with Time Warner it would be part of the cable “costa nostra,” its broadband access assured.

On the day the merger deal was announced, Case stood by Levin as open access to broadband became another victim of corporate greed. Levin declared that the new AOL Time Warner was “going to take the open access issue out of Washington, and out of city hall and put it into the marketplace, into the commercial arrangements that should occur to provide the kind of access for as much content as possible.” That was shorthand for: “AOL will have access through us. Everyone else forgetaboutit.”

So now Dick Parsons—who was part of the team that created the most infamously unsuccessful merger in U.S. media history—is once again re-engineering AOL. It may in the short term bring in more ad dollars, helping it fulfill the Case/Levin/Parsons vision that the Internet’s future is interactive TV-like marketing. But AOL’s real problem is that it can’t offer its users broadband since it has no legal access to it—a political cause it gave up when the going got rough in the (admittedly) politically corrupt culture of Washington, D.C. media politics. That’s why we believe the eventual demise of AOL is a fitting conclusion to its own self-serving role in the U.S. broadband debate.

Dave Farber, Net Neutrality, and the Verizon Connection

The anti-network neutrality crowd has been citing the position of well-regarded Internet pioneer Dave Farber as part of its campaign to undermine support for the issue. Farber has been squared off against pro net neutrality scholar Vint Cerf (now a Google exec.). Farber and some of his academic friends wrote a widely circulated missive in early June deriding Net Neutrality. The paper, entitled “Common Sense about Network Neutrality” was part of an effort organized by Wharton professor Gerald Faulhaber to provide, in their words, “unbiased interdisciplinary analysis of network neutrality.” The piece invoked such prestigious institutions as the Wharton School, Carnegie-Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania.
But Faulhaber should have acknowledged in this piece that he has been a consultant for Verizon (see his CV). (Other academics in the group–Yoo, Katz–have been employed by the cable lobby). Consequently, this academic group cannot be seen as delivering such an “unbiased” opinion. Dave Farber might need to write about this on his interesting people list. Perhaps a piece on the legitimacy of taking corporate consulting money by scholars and not disclosing it in related papers?

AT&T’s Blue Room: Music Fans Should Beware of this Anti-Internet Freedom Sponsored Site

Guess who’s the “online broadcaster of several of the hottest summer concerts”—including this weekend’s Lollapalozza. It’s AT&T. The anti-network neutrality phone giant is now “aligned with artists such as Coldplay and Keith Urban,” notes Ad Age. This summer, AT&T’s Blue Room is bringing online music fans “LIVE webcasts from Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza.” The Blue Room site helps debut music from CBS and has interviews with many leading music artists (including Yung Joc, Rodney Atkins, LeToya, and Tom Petty). Naturally, Blue Room runs online ads for AT&T’s high-speed Internet service. AT&T is also making a major push to reach others online, including bloggers (Project D.U.).

We think it would be very cool for Blue Room’s users—and participating music artists—to make it clear that they want AT&T to support Internet Freedom (network neutrality). They should demand that the phone giant stop its political campaign to control the future of broadband in the U.S. Otherwise, they should give AT&T’s digital monopoly–including Blue Room–a real case of the blues.

Source: “A Cool, Hip AT&T? Step Inside Blue Room.” Abbey Klaassen, Ad Age. July 10, 2006