Broadband astroturf grows thicker

The astroturfing season is officially open. According to a story in Vice, big incumbent ISPs are trying to make their opposition to new FCC network neutrality rules or, worse, reclassification of broadband as a regulated, common carrier service look like it’s coming from the common people. A group calling itself Broadband for America – who could be against that? – is cranking up an artificial grassroots – astroturf – campaign against net neutrality. But the group’s leadership is not exactly made up of consumer advocates…

Last month, Broadband for America wrote a letter to the FCC bluntly demanding that the agency ‘categorically reject’ any effort toward designating broadband as a public utility. It wasn’t signed by any internet consumer advocates…The signatures on the letter reads like a who’s who of ISP industry presidents and CEOs, including AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, Cox Communications’ Patrick Esser, NCTA president (and former FCC commissioner) Michael Powell, Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, and Comcast’s Brian Roberts.

Meanwhile, the Free Utopia blog is claiming that a website opposing an Australian bailout of the Utopia project, ostensibly put up by the Utah Taxpayers Association, was actually funded by CenturyLink, which stands to lose big if a true muni network ever hits its stride in the Salt Lake City area.

It’s easy to overstate the influence these false fronts exert on the decision making process, particularly at the FCC where the former chief lobbyist for both the cable and mobile phone industries now sits in the chairman’s seat. It’s not like Tom Wheeler doesn’t know the playbook by heart.

On the other hand, the FCC has reportedly received hundreds of thousands of emails on the topic, at least some of which probably came from actual ISP customers. Like this guy…

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