Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ghostwriters in politics

Municipal Broadband Networks has some details a story about how Comcast is ghostwriting letters for elected officials to send to the FCC in support of it's proposed merger with Time-Warner. Several sources are covering the story, as Municipal Broadband Networks learned of it from the Verge with their own exclusive story.

The idea is pretty simple. You're a large corporation with a compelling interest as an ISP to get this merger through. So you write letters for your favorite elected representatives to send to the FCC in support of the merger, on your own letterhead, signed by your pen. But you didn't actually write the letter now, did you, Senator?

That is some amazing chutzpah considering that dummies like Comcast and Centurylink also write legislation just for their own crony interests. Now that they've been caught at it, how will they respond? Will they change their tune and stop doing that? I don't think they will ever stop until their corporations are dissolved and we can move on to something more entertaining, like community broadband.

I'm sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Powerful entrenched interests are always happy to make their views known anonymously, through an ally like a politician. From energy to finance, these interests will never cease to use proxies to get the message out for fear of castigation.

So here's what I don't understand. Comcast firmly believes in their message. Why do they need proxies to help them? They have enough power and money. What else could they possibly need from government? More power and money.

Is that it? Is that the ultimate wish? How about providing better service to your customers instead of changing the names of your customers in your billing records? It's not nice to change the name of one of your customers to "Super Bitch". It's also not nice to write legislation that makes it much harder for communities to build their own broadband networks when you fail to play fair.

To listen to executives from our ISPs wax eloquent about the free market is to miss the point entirely about why they are asking for sweetheart deals from the government. But this is what happens when public infrastructure is owned by private corporations. What they have is never enough. Why build capacity when you can seek rents and take profits? Why offer good customer service when you can seek to further entrench your monopoly?

Because they have nothing better to do. That's why.
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