NetCompetition.org

 

Scott Cleland, the head of NetCompetition.org, is a smart guy.  He's a respected industry analyst who has been called on to testify before Congress about telecommunications policy numerous times.

 

But he's not a grassroots leader.

 

NetCompetition.org presents itself as a membership organization that brings people together to debate the merits of various telecom reform proposals.  But the only diversity in NetCompetition.org's list of supporters is cable industry interests versus phone industry interests.  And since cable and telephone companies both support the telecom legislation currently being considered in Congress, and both oppose net neutrality, it's not exactly a wide-ranging debate. 

 

The American Cable Association, Cellular Telecommunications Association, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, U.S. Telecom Association, AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular, Comcast, Qwest, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, Verizon Wireless and Wireless Communications Association International make up the entire "membership" of NetCompetition.org.[15]  Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, says that the "research and information on NetCompetition.org is shoddy and reflects a vision promoting monopoly power and greed."[16]

 

NetCompetition.org uses viral web cartoons posted on YouTube.com to disguise its corporate nature.  The videos attempt to frame the supporters of net neutrality as only big-money companies like Google, eBay and Microsoft who want Congress to give them special benefits.  The big-money companies who bankrolled these projects (see list above) aren't mentioned.  Neither are the hundreds of consumer and public interest organizations who favor net neutrality.

 

In one video, NetCompetition.org even goes so far as to take a cheap shot at a celebrity net neutrality activist.  The cartoon features animated ants, controlled by Google and other queen ants, marching through Internet tunnels.  Then, inexplicably, a small bee with a human head appears in the tunnel.  It's not clear who the bee is unless you magnify the picture.  Then it's obvious:  Moby.  (Or is it Mo-Bee?  Har, har, har.)

 

Why Moby?  Probably because earlier this year he participated in a video made by SavetheInternet.com, a real grassroots coalition that accepts no corporate money and that advocates for net neutrality.

 

 

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[15]  NetCompetition.org, "About Us," at http://www.netcompetition.org/docs/about/#members (last visited 4 Aug 2006).
[16]  Jeff Chester, "NetCompetition.org: Distortions and Cable/Telco Flackery," Digital Destiny, 27 May 2006.