Eyes on their lobbyists’ bank accounts

The plutocrats and their bought politicians don’t care about Internet free trade, but we should.

Scott Bradner almost gets it about the opposition to net neutrality in Eyes in their ankles: The congressional view of network neutrality:

If you work at a company that uses the Internet to sell to customers or to buy from suppliers you should care about the net neutrality discussion.
You should, but you probably don’t have the money to buy some politicians to do something about it, and unfortunately the biggest companies do, and they’re busy doing just that:
US Chamber of Commerce$132,067,500
PG&E Corp$45,460,000
General Electric$39,290,000
FedEx Corp$25,582,074
American Medical Assn$22,555,000
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America$21,740,000
Blue Cross/Blue Shield$21,007,141
American Hospital Assn $19,438,358
Boeing Co$17,896,000
National Cable & Telecommunications Assn$17,710,000
National Assn of Realtors$17,580,000
Verizon Communications$16,750,000
Northrop Grumman$15,740,000
AT&T Inc$15,395,078
United Technologies$14,530,000
National Assn of Broadcasters$13,710,000
Pfizer Inc $13,330,000
Southern Co$13,220,000
Source: OpenSecrets.org Top Spenders 2010.

Why look, there’s National Cable & Telecommunications Assn, Verizon, and AT&T in the top 20! And who wants to bet that a big chunk of US CoC’s lobbying isn’t also going against net neutrality?

Scott explains at greater length:

This is an inability to see the value riding over the ‘Net, which is the same thing as having your eyes in your ankles pointing down so they can only see strips of asphalt and miss the cars and trucks riding on the asphalt. But the main problem may be that many of these people can only see “things.” They see physical wires and cables but cannot see, so do not recognize, the non-physical traffic using those wires and supporting close to 20% of U.S. commerce. They focus on the jobs in the carriers installing the wires but ignore the vastly greater number of jobs created by those using the wires because they cannot see the communications flying by.
No, it’s not an inability to see. The big telcos and their big corporate allies see their profits and their bottom line and they think they’ll increase them by further consolidation. They don’t care about your value. And their bought political lackeys in Congress do what they’re told by their patrons.

I like Scott, and he’s a sage of Internet technology. But there are several huge problems with his post.

  • It uses the opposition’s framing. There is no net neutrality “discussion” anymore than there is an intelligent design “controversy” or a climate change “debate”. As I heard a civil rights activist say recently, there are two sides to this discussion: there’s the truth, and there’s a lie. There’s the truth and then there’s paid astroturf echoed by bought politicians.

    National Geographic addressed this problem a few years ago by printing on the cover:

    Inside they got right to the point:
    The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.
    We need to stop pandering to a fake “discussion” and get right to the point: the Internet grew up with all the services everybody likes, from email to YouTube, facebook, and twitter, because nobody had to petition a few big companies before trying out new services. The big telcos and cablecos that now control most of U.S. Internet access contributed nothing to developing those services. What those companies are trying to do now would prevent any more such services from being developed. We need to codify and preserve the conditions under which the Internet grew up so we can continue to have the freedom to develop and use new services.

  • The old joke diagram about political and financial layers above the technical layers of the Internet got it backwards: the financial layer controls the political layer. Internet sages continue to miss that these days there is no politics without money.

  • The same politicians who are busy suppressing the Internet are the ones who are trying to defund NPR after promising to focus laser-like on job creation. We need to be willing to call a hypocrite a hypocrite and to link other examples of their hypocrisy to their Internet hypocrisy. Look at the protests in Wisconsin against union busting: more people on the streets than at the height of the Vietnam War, and the traditional media hardly cover it. Most people who know what’s going on there know because of the Internet. Much like in Tunisia and Egypt, where the local traditional media were worse than useless and the Internet fomented revolution, according to people who went to jail for being involved. The plutocrats and their politicians who want to destroy unions and consolidate media down to even fewer than they control want the Internet muzzled so nobody can see what they’re up to in other arenas. Mubarak made no mistake in shutting down the Internet in Egypt the same day he told his military to attack protesters. Fortunately, the military refused, deciding it worked for the people, not for Egypt’s biggest plutocrat. If even fewer companies control most Internet access in the U.S., and can throttle, block, or censor it at will, there will be no need to shut it down to hide what the plutocrats are up to.

  • Could we stop using the term “net neutrality”? How about Internet free speech, free press, and free trade? Internet freedom!
We won’t win this by polite technical or political arguments. As Frederick Douglass said:
Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never will.
Technical people tend to carefully separate politics from their profession. What will we do now that paid politics is trying to destroy their profession?

To win we need large numbers of people to see Internet freedom as a civil rights issue, infringing on their freedom of press, speech, assembly, and ability to make a living. How do we get people to see that?

Hm, the only medium we have to reach them in large enough numbers is… the Internet! Now is it clear why the reactionaries in the U.S. and elsewhere don’t want a free Internet? And why we should?

Free the Internet!