Free Press doesn’t want you to read this

Speaking of censorship, what are we to make of Free Press’ censorship of hostile opinions on its “Save the Internet” blog? Clearly, they have the right to remove any comment they want to remove, but it’s normal to leave behind some admission that a comment has been censored and why. Here are three comments Brett Glass left on the STI blog that were all silently erased:

Censored Comment #1 (in response to http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/2008/07/09/what-comcast-wants/ ):

“minmax2k”, you appear to be a victim of this site’s poorly written blog software, which managed to include the period at the end of a sentence in the URL that it converted into a link. The correct URL (and I’m putting it on a separate line with no punctuation in the hope that it is not mangled in some other fashion) is

http://www.brettglass.com/FCC/remarks.html

In any event, the public does not know for sure who is backing Free Press, or whether they are indeed “grass roots” at all, because Free Press has refused to disclose its contributors’ identities. However, while the names have been redacted from their Form 990s, the amounts were not ­ and from this we see that they received one contribution of $300,000 (clearly NOT from the grass roots, though we do not currently know what corporation might have been this generous) and quite a few of more than $10,000. Few individuals have that much cash to give to one group, so most of these are almost certainly from corporations, though whether they were for-profit or non-profit one cannot tell.

Clearly, there are big, well monied players involved here, so don’t be fooled by the “astroturf.”

And, yes, inside-the-Beltway lobbyists are most often self-interested, or serving the interests of a particular constituency, despite their claim to be acting in the “public interest.” Take, for example, Jack Abramoff ­ who was, he said, just advocating the interests of a few worthy Native American tribes. It’s important always to maintain a healthy skepticism.

And I am by no means calling Comcast an ideal model of corporate ethics and decency; they aren’t. However, Free Press, by lobbying to regulate ALL Internet providers (of which Comcast is only one), might make Comcast sting just a little ­ while causing consumers to hurt a LOT. Want to lose your broadband options ­ or maybe lose your broadband altogether? Or see your broadband bill triple? If Free Press gets its way, it’s not only possible but probable.

“splendidmike”: Our ISP does get glowing remarks from customers. The only ones who might not make such remarks, in fact, are the ones who want to hog bandwidth or take over our network using P2P software. We don’t let them do that…. And by preventing them from doing so we are able to ensure that everyone else enjoys great service.

And “u235Sentinel”: If you want to be able to “fire” Comcast and pick a better provider, you should not support Free Press’ agenda or its petition to the FCC. Why? Because their agenda would be more harmful to Comcast’s competitors than to Comcast. You’d likely be left with a choice of just the phone company and the cable company ­ if that. To understand why, see the link above.

Censored Comment #2 (in response to http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/2008/07/11/net-users-band-together-stop-comcast-and-win-one-for-net-neutrality/):

As Free Press engages in gloating, premature declarations of “victory” (the public is not privy to the proposed ruling, so there is no way for Free Press to know what is actually being proposed among the Commissioners), the future availability of Internet and of Internet competition hangs in the balance. If Free Press gets its way, and reasonable network management practices are arbitrarily prohibited by the FCC, there will be fewer broadband providers (and hence less consumer choice), higher prices, and reduced broadband deployment. Many rural areas may lose their links to the Internet, and all consumers will suffer from increased charges and lower quality of service. And the camel’s nose of regulation will be allowed into the Internet “tent” ­ paving the way for government censorship of content.

It’s time for members of the public to speak up before any of these potential untoward effects come to pass. Call the Commissioners ­ especially the office of Chairman Martin at 202-418-1000, Commissioner Michael Copps at 202-418-2000, and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein at 202-418-2300. Tell them not to regulate the Internet ­ and especially not to restrict your broadband choices or ability to get broadband by passing stifling regulation.

Censored Comment #3 (in response to http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/2008/07/14/beware-of-cable-guys-making-promises/):

We must be just as wary of the profit motives of lobbyists as of the profit motives of other businesses. No one is censoring the Internet; Free Press has fabricated scare stories about Internet censorship so that it can frighten the public (and others) into paying it money to battle this imaginary straw man. The truth is that Free Press’ regulatory agenda would wipe out small and independent ISPs, leaving only the cable companies and the telephone companies in the Internet business. Would you like to have a real choice of broadband providers, or only a choice between two monopolies? Before you believe the rhetoric on this Web site, learn more. See my testimony before the FCC at http://www.brettglass.com/FCC/remarks.html and also the “Hands off the Internet” blog at http://handsoff.org/blog/.

To paraphrase Lessig: “Lobbyists have a nature. It is not one that you would trust with the future of your country.”

This entry was posted in Blogging, Net Neutrality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Free Press doesn’t want you to read this

  1. Brett Glass says:

    Ironically, when I said, “no one is censoring the Internet,” Free Press — which had been making dire predictions of Internet censorship — turned around and censored its blog. So, now I will have to amend that statement to read, “Comcast never censored the Internet — but Free Press, a well funded lobbying group which is pushing for regulation of the Internet — has.”

  2. NotFreePress says:

    When will FreePress tell us who funds them? Why can’t they be “transparent” too? This censorship on their blog is bad…

  3. Brett Glass says:

    No one outside of Free Press itself knows for sure who is funding them. I do have an unconfirmed report that Free Press’ biggest donor is the Ford Foundation. This is ironic because one of the Ford Foundation’s key agendas is to promote democracy. (Regulating ISPs out of business, as Free Press’s agenda would do, would obviously harm democracy by harming people’s ability to get online, get informed, and participate.)

    The situation is obfuscated by the fact that Free Press is really two groups: “Free Press” and the “Free Press Action Fund.” (I’m not counting their other aliases, such as “Save the Internet” and “Internet for Everyone,” because these are just Web sites and not actual organizations — though they look, deceptively, like separate groups to the casual observer.)

    Free Press is registered as a 501(c)(3) public charity, and the Free Press Action Fund is registered as a 501(c)(4) (a cateogory used by trade associations and lobbying groups). 501(c)(3) groups are very limited in their ability to lobby, so apparently many of them try to do an “end run” around this restriction by forming an affiliated 501(c)(4) that lobbies for the things they can’t (or spends more on lobbying that they’re allowed to). This defies the intent of Congress when it restricted the ability of 501(c)(3)s — which can receive tax deductible contributions — to lobby. But it is a loophole that many Washington lobbyists will probably continue to exploit until it is closed.

    Fortunately, Federal law does make nonprofits’ Forms 990 a matter of public record, so I’ve posted the Free Press Forms 990 for the year 2007 at http://brettglass.com/FreePress990.pdf and http://brettglass.com/FreePressAF990.pdf. Note that between the two corporations, they’ve spent more than $700,000 on lobbying on “network neutrality” and related issues! That’s more than any small, independent ISP like ourselves — or even a trade association consisting of all of us together — could ever hope to raise. The forms give a better perspective on who is really David and who is Goliath here. Free Press, with millions in funding between its two corporations, is no small underdog!

Comments are closed.