Teletruth News Analysis, June 1st, 2010.



Letters from House Democrats and Senate Repbublicans Against the FCC --- Sponsored by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Astroturfers?


It’s open season on the FCC’s Broadband plans,  from a new proposed bill by Rep. Stearns (FL), or former politicians tied to astroturf groups --- Are the phone and cable companies pulling the strings?


To protect the Public Interest, shouldn’t these Senators and Congressmen recuse themselves from voting on issues that directly help their contributors --- AT&T, Verizon and Comcast?


Astroturfer : Some person, politician, company,  non-profit  or other entity that takes money from a corporation then uses their influence for the good of the corporation – usually over the needs of their own constituents, members, etc.


CNET reports that “Congress rebukes FCC on Net neutrality rules”.
“The Federal Communications Commission's plan to impose Net neutrality regulations just became much more difficult to pull off….A bipartisan group of politicians on Monday told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law….Seventy-four House Democrats sent Genachowski… a letter saying his ideas will "jeopardize jobs" and ‘should not be done without additional direction from Congress’… A separate letter from 37 Senate Republicans… was more pointed. It accused Genachowski of pushing ‘heavy-handed 19th century regulations’ that are ‘inconceivable’ as well as illegal.”

The story doesn’t mention that these letters are totally partisan --- as the list of House Democrats and Senate Republicans who signed these letters reads like a who’s who of politicians who,  almost all, are campaign-financed by AT&T, Verizon and the cablecos as some of their largest contributors.


More suspect, the location of these posted letters are on the Netcompetition website, an astroturf euphanism for ‘this web site is brought to you by AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to keep their monopoly/duopoly power intact’.  Here’s a link to NetCompetition’s funding sources: AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, not to mention a  number of ‘co-opted’ groups like LULAC, who gets millions in funding from AT&T and Verizon.


We wonder  --- Are the initiators of these letters drafted by/created by some astroturf group who works directly for AT&T, Verizon or Comcast?  And doesn’t this smack of  anti-trust violations when both the cable and phone companies --- the caretakers of the only wires --- are working together to harm the Public Interest?

The Republican Letter:  AT&T, Verizon and Comcast Funding.

Going  through the signatures we find that the majority of these signees have AT&T, Comcast and Verizon as their major funders.  Here are just a few; John Mc Cain has AT&T as his  Number 2 campaign and PAC funding source, Sam Brownback  has AT&T as Number 1, Jim DeMint has AT&T was Number 2, with Verizon and Comcast making the Top 20.

Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte and Leadership PAC                                          


Rank   Contributor                            Total

John Mc Cain

2          AT&T Inc                                $57,500          

12        Verizon Communications        $34,250          

20        Comcast Corp                         $28,000          

Sam Brownback

1          AT&T Inc                                $11,000          

Kay Baily Hutchinson

4          AT&T Inc                               $37,000          

Jim DeMint

2          AT&T Inc                               $64,750          

12        Comcast Corp                         $26,500                      

13        Verizon Communications        $26,250



House Democrat Letter(s).


The Democratic letter, signed by 74 Democrats seems to be just as suspect as a previous letter of  House Democrats ‘concerned’ with the FCC’s Net neutrality’ policies. The previous letter signatories showed that monies were being paid by AT&T and Verizon to almost all of  these concerned Democrats. Again, the sleaze factor – the Congressmen gets money from a corporation, then  signs onto a letter of concern, which can only help the corporation and is against the interests of their own constituents.


The Hill blog mentioned that Congressmen John Dingell also sent a letter,  Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) sided with major phone and cable companies in a letter discouraging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski from a plan to boost the agency’s authority over broadband access providers.”


It seems that Congressmen Dingell also gets money from the cable and phone companies, who are major contributors.


Rank    Company                     Money

3          Comcast Corp             $13,000

3          AT&T Inc                    $13,000

17        US Telecom Assn        $  7,000 (Lobby/association of the phone companies.)


The Hill didn’t mention that Dingell has always had a warm spot for the phone companies. In the last decade, Dingell was part of the infamous “Tauzin-Dingell”,  a blatantly destructive bill that was designed to close down competition on the broadband networks; the work was finished by the previous FCC administration.


Congressman Stearns Creates a “Neutral Net Neutrality” Bill to help AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.


Dingell is not the only one who has taken a shot at the FCC. Congressman Cliff Stearns  (R-FL) has proposed a bill that would require “neutral Net Neutrality. As Ars Technica wrote:


“In an effort to make network neutrality  impossible for the FCC temperament,  Congressman Cliff Stearns  (R-FL) yesterday introduced a new bill (PDF) that  would require ‘neutral network neutrality.’  And no, that's not a typo.”


Don’t look behind the curtain. Checking out Stearn’s campaign contributions, we find that AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are his top contributors in the 2009-2010 timeframe.


Rank    Company                     Money

1          AT&T                         $12,000

2          Comcast                      $10,000

3          Verizon                          $8,500


And this has been going on for awhile; the monies channeled from different phone and cable company groups.


Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL 6th) Political Action Committee Contributions: 2003-2004 Campaign Cycle Total 2003-2004 campaign contributions:   $427,980



Former Politicians are also on the AT&T, Verizon and Comcast Broadband Bandwagon.


Other former politicians are also expressing their opinions, with the undercurrent of corporate funding. The Huffington Post ran an op ed by Harold Ford, Jr.,  who is  now the co-chair of the astroturf group “Broadband for America”, another AT&T and Verizon front.  This op ed attacks Free Press and the FCC.


Here’s the “Broadband ‘against’  America” list of members, including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.


The Position of These Letters Is to Parrot the Policy Concerns of Their Major Funders – AT&T, Verizon Et Al.


The underlying goals of these activities are: Keep the networks closed, don’t regulate the companies’ questionable acts, give the companies more government money and let customers also pay the bills, without any regulator questioning it.


According to the Senate letter,  even the FCC’s suggestion to a reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service will have “a chilling effect on investment as well as network construction and enhancements in unserved areas”. The previous FCC defined broadband and Internet as an ‘interstate information service’, not a telecom service, thus closing the networks to competition and limiting the ability of regulators to protect the Public Interest.


Meanwhile, the Democratic letter has rewritten history—broadband is now an American ‘success’ story. “We are writing to reinforce the strong bipartisan consensus among policymakers, industry participants, and analysts that the success of the broadband marketplace stems from policies that encourage competition, private investment, and legal certainty.”


And the Democratic letter claims that the FCC decision will harm investment. “The uncertainty this proposal creates will jeopardize jobs and deter needed investment for years to come.“

The Democratic letter also quotes the FCC stating that:


“As the Plan notes, that work will require as much as $350 billion in additional private investment. Generating those enormous sums from industry, and the good-paying jobs they produce, will require a continued commitment to the stable regulatory environment that has existed for the last dozen years.”

This is all made up baloney. America is 15th in the world in broadband, but the analysts are touting our success? Who are they? The same non-partisan analysts who are also being paid by AT&T and Verizon? We’ve written about these corporate-funded-think tanks.


The reality is --- America’s phone customers have paid about $320 billion for a fiber optic broadband future, and continue to pay.  America got hosed.


Verizon and AT&T’s have essentially been able to hold America’s Public Switched Telephone Networks hostage. America already paid  these companies, as we’ve have been documenting,  about $320 billion for a fiber optic future we did not get.  And, of course, no Senator or Congressmen has asked for an investigation into all of the money collected in the name of broadband.


Our position has been and remains that the FCC’s plan is a failure because it doesn’t reopen the networks to competition but more importantly, it never investigated any of our claims – that customers have been and continue to be the primary investors in broadband in America through deregulatory policies that have overcharged customers --- and continue to overcharge them.


And when we say customers are funding broadband through rate increases, there is plenty of documentation to prove it. For example, here is a direct quote from the New York State Department of Public Service, June 2009,  which has raised local phone rates to illegally fund  broadband.


“We are always concerned about the impacts on ratepayers of any rate increase, especially in times of economic stress,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown. “Nevertheless, there are certain increases in Verizon’s costs that have to be recognized. This is especially important given the magnitude of the company's capital investment program, including its massive deployment of fiber optics in New York. We encourage Verizon to make appropriate investments in New York, and these minor rate increases will allow those investments to continue.”

Since 2004, local phone rates in New York state have gone up 90%, (based on actual phone bills) with almost every ancillary service, from Directory Assistance (411) to Calling Features, such as Call Waiting, all having major increases. And this is happening in almost every state, not just New York.


Unfortunately, these state  increases are paid by low-income families, Lifeline customers and rural customers who may never see anything from the thousands of dollars they have paid in overcharging.


The Republican letter also claims that “there is scant evidence that the broadband market lacks competition or that consumers are harmed in  a manner that would warrant 19th century regulations.”


Obviously, since the Republicans and Democrats have become comfortable with a ‘duopoly’ in the political process, their model of competition is now  --- Take money from the large corporations and keep our broadband-‘2’-party system intact. The letter writers don’t seem to seem to understand the growing discontent  ---  the public is waking up to the fact that ‘business as usual’ in Washington means taking money from corporations then writing letters to help their funding sources; ‘screw the constituents’ is a DC mantra these days.


And the companies will continue to have power as they can outspend any advocacy. Duopolies like duopolies. According to the Wall Street Journal:


 “In 2009, the telecom industry spent a combined $43 million on lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T spent almost $15 million in 2009. Lobbying and political contributions tend to surge when Congress is considering major legislation. When Congress was considering telecom legislation in 2006, phone and cable companies spent a combined $59 million on lobbying.”



Today, broadband in most states comes over the cable or phone companies’ wires, but they are still just monopolies in place. Verizon and AT&T, combined, only have 5 million upgraded homes capable of TV-cable competition. Out of 120 million homes that’s chump change. They can’t supply competition for cable service. Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon control the public phone networks and phone service as the cablcos have only 20% of their mostly residential customers with phone service. While  the duopoly exists as these companies removed all competition and now stay in control by splitting broadband and Internet services, many areas have just inferior DSL, which travels over the old copper wiring or nothing.


Finally, it’s clear that many reporters are just not investigating the details, not always looking under the covers. These letters show how AT&T, Verizon and Comcast  use of their congressional friends. These musings will be reported as fact, the media failing to identify the questionable corporate-bias that runs through these letter-writing campaigns. 


Worse, it’s time for reporters to investigate just who is really funding  broadband (or the lack thereof). Customers, not investors, are footing whatever gets built – and when it doesn’t get built, it is just more for the companies’ bottomline profit margins, not the public interest.