How Lobbyists Killed Net Neutrality

How Lobbyists Killed Net Neutrality

// The Problem

Lobbyists are killing the internet! Just ask Josh Silver, Director of Represent.Us and former internet and media reform advocate. He spent years working on Net Neutrality as president of FreePress, so he knows what he’s talking about.

In fact, the reason Josh left the media reform world is because he got sick of seeing his efforts thwarted by an openly corrupt political system. That corruption just struck again. This time, it came in the form of a devastating ruling on net neutrality. But as Josh explains, that ruling was made possible by a chain of events set in motion years before. The message here is clear: If we want a free and open internet, we need to deal with the corruption that is money in politics first.

// The Solutions

If you want to take up the fight to protect Net Neutrality, you should support our good friends at Free Press and sign their petition to the FCC. If you’re sick and tired of fighting the same battle against the same special interest lobbyists over, and over, and over — on ever issue that matters to everyday Americans — join us by filling in your information and clicking “add my name.”

All campaign contribution and lobbying data referenced in this story comes courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics


This week a federal court overturned the Net Neutrality rules passed in 2010 by the Federal Communications Commission. Those rules prevent your internet providers – like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast or Time Warner – from indiscriminately blocking or slowing down your internet service.

Here’s why this whole situation is both absurdly corrupt and completely avoidable.

Over the past 20 years, the internet has evolved:  from emails, then to webpages to audio, to games and now television and tons of other amazing stuff. It is the primary source for most communications. And during those 20 years, the largest phone and cable company lobbyists have become one of the biggest spenders in Washington to buy politicians and control the internet to maximize profits.  They have passed laws that literally prevent competition. That’s why you have hardly any choices for your internet provider, and extremely slow and expensive in comparison to most other countries. But back to Net Neutrality.

The story starts in 2002 with this guy, Michael Powell, He’s the son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell – and he got a job running the Federal Communications Commission (I’m sure there was no nepotism there). The Internet was growing fast,  and industry lobbyists convinced  Powell to classify the Internet as an “information service”, rather than a “telecommunications service.” “Who cares,” you ask?  Federal law says that telecommunications are a regulated service. That’s how the government made sure that every home in America had affordable home phone service in the 20th century. It’s why, when dial-up internet first started, there was lots of competition and low prices. It’s why there were strong protections against anyone wiretapping your phone service. Oh the good old days… On the other hand, “information services” are barely regulated.

A few years after Powell’s decision, companies like Comcast got busted favoring their internet content over others, and it all came to a head when this guy, Julius Genachowski was appointed by President Obama to run the FCC.  The president said on the campaign trail that he would “take a back seat to no one on net neutrality”  so nervous  industry lobbyists started throwing huge money and propaganda around, calling it a government takeover of the Internet.  72 House Democrats joined most of the Republicans in calling for the FCC to stand down. So, actually passing strong Net Neutrality rules would have required that Chairman Genachowski reclassify internet as a telecommunications service, or the new rules would eventually get thrown out by the courts. Everyone knew it, but Obama’s FCC caved to cable and phone lobbyists, passed weak Net Neutrality rules, and claimed victory.

And so we arrive at 2014. The court has thrown out the rules, Congress won’t save us because they are bought, and the only one who can realistically fix this is Obama’s new FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.  But Wheeler, wait for it, is the former president of the National Cable Television Association, and the former head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association!  So the government official who could fix this is the former chief lobbyist for the companies who just won the court case against the FCC so that they can screw consumers and make more money.

If this isn’t yet another reason for everyone in this country to stop what you’re doing and join an American anti-corruption movement dedicated to ending this nonsense, I don’t know what is.

Source from Email: Open Secrets

  • C. Dub

    Appreciate your work!! Thank you!

  • Chris889

    My gosh is our system flipping corrupt… I mean… wow.

  • Greg Russak

    Well done, Josh. Thanks for distilling to the point that anyone can understand and appreciate how money corrupts and why we need to pay attention to net neutrality.

  • JJ042804

    Corruption is still illegal, so why don’t we see our Prisons fill up with Politicians and Corporate misfits?

    • Mike

      Because the entire system is corrupt, prisons included, and many Americans are too blind to realize that now is the time, if ever there was one, to revolt against their government.

      • amyinnh

        Americans are digsting the depth of the corruption and the impact of it, before deciding the course of action. Lighting a fire or throwing a brick may feel good, but that isn’t going to fix this. Jailing the bastidges isn’t either, as they are best buds with the judges, lawyers and prison wardens. We’re going to have to hit this with a tidal wave.

  • Rocco C Marotta

    Demand campaign finance reform!

  • John McCroskey

    We’re slaves. Gerry Spence has it right.

  • rory

    What exactly is represent us doing besides having people sign petitions? I have no idea how many petitions I have signed through this movement but it seems like it does nothing since i have seen 0 change in our government through this movement or any other like it.

  • daniel moss

    Good write up on another shameful chapter in american corruption.

  • Daniel Olivaw

    Thank you for your good intentions but signing petitions won’t get us anywhere. Do you really think they care a bit if 250 million people sign this? Unless we the people take to the streets to reclaim our freedoms things will get worse and worse.

  • Brett Glass

    This is so completely wrong and backwards that it is scary. Lobbyists working from Google IMPOSED the so-called “net neutrality” regulations, which aren’t neutral at all; the procure free bandwidth for Google. Free Press is one of the many lobbying groups in DC that pretends to be a “public interest” group, but get money from corporations (in this case, Google and Netflix), laundered through foundations. (It refuses to publish the portion of its tax form that documents its funding sources, so as to hide the money trail.) Do not sign any petitions before learning the facts. “Net neutrality” regulations are not intended to benefit consumers. They discourage investment and innovation, raise the price of Internet service, deter Internet deployment, and destroy competition.

  • kingartie1

    Silver implies or says in the video that the reason the telecoms have for killing net neutrality is the lust for more profits. While money–and vast quantities of it–certainly is one reason for this takeover, it is not the only one, and maybe not even the main one. We the people have a lot of power when we tap the internet. We get tidal waves of news and information–rivers of 411, good and bad, accurate and less so, on the slugs, rodents and parasites who claim to be our representatives and our upright business tycoons, and we get riled up, and we write Congress and offending corporations by the millions, and we donate and raise tons of opposition money, and thus the dark doings by these politicos and these enterprises are subjected to at least some sunshine. These vampires don’t like the sunshine. They want to spin their deals and suck our resources without scrutiny.

    Our internet gives some of them pause, makes them blink, slows down their schemes, makes their divide-and-conquer takeover scams and public relations brainwash propaganda that much more difficult. Sometimes we even thwart and defeat them, cost them money and power. And they don’t like that. If you think this is not at heart a takeover scheme to dull the attack of criticism by controlling the flow of information and its ability to rouse the populace to action — think again. MonsantoKochBPChase et al don’t give a rat’s ass about altruism or acting with nobility. Buying politics and strangling the internet are their main goals, and they go hand in hand. It chokes me to say it, but they are well more than halfway to dominance. It’s 1984, thirty years late.

  • Ocelotlantli N.A. Tezcatlipoca

    Tlazocamati. Literally, this word means “The worth of this is known” or simply put, think you. What you are doing is greatly needed here, and I am glad to add my small name to your honorable cause.

  • yktdrtd

    Think bigger. Kickstart your own towers, create a co-op.

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