With this week's net neutrality protests being joined by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Reddit and hundreds of startups and small companies, the cable and broadcast industry appears to be getting a little nervous. So far they've had a relatively easy time convincing FCC boss Ajit Pai to not only dismantle the rules, but to blatantly ignore the massive public support the rules enjoy. Pai's even turned a blind eye as somebody used a bot to stuff the agency's public comment system with bogus support for the telecom industry's horrible idea.
The media coverage of this week's protest risks popping the narrative bubble that there's significant support for killing net neutrality. So the telecom-industry funded think tank FreedomWorks apparently came up with an ingenious plan to launch, well, something that kind of looks vaguely like a counter protest:
FreedomWorks and other free market groups launch https://t.co/MuluUxOaRA. #FreetheNet #TitleII #NetNeutrality #TCOT https://t.co/S5LhSLjziA pic.twitter.com/sEJKxzv7LY
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) July 6, 2017
You'll note that this "unlock the net" campaign is designed to give the impression of a broad coalition of support for killing net neutrality, but only really lists a bunch of think tanks (like the Competitive Enterprise Institute) you're supposed to ignore are also funded by the telecom industry. And when you head over to the campaign's bare bones unlockthenet website, you're unsurprisingly greeted with a lot of logically-inconsistent talk about "freedom," and a backgrounder on how net neutrality is a villainous concept responsible for all manner of nefarious evils:
"The Internet has been an engine of innovation and growth for two decades because previous Republican and Democratic administrations correctly recognized how a federal regulatory assault on the Internet would undermine its evolution and expansion. Yet, without evidence of any problem, Obama’s FCC catered to scare tactics and misinformation campaigns driven by the left to take control of the Internet without congressional authority.
This shocking move by the federal government opened the doors for forms of online censorship, potentially new government taxes and fees, and resulting price hikes on consumers."
The hope, of course, is to use a lot of misleading bobble-headed partisan rhetoric to get hardline partisans rooting against their own best self interests, which, if you may have noticed recently, is a pretty effective tactic. Of course net neutrality exists to help thwart censorship and obnoxious price hikes on consumers, and there's a long, long list of examples of why a lack of broadband competition has made net neutrality protections necessary. And, contrary to the missive above, net neutrality rules exist to protect the innovation groups like these groups pretend to care so very deeply about.
The reality is a bipartisan majority of Americans support net neutrality protections because they are very familiar with the anti-competitive behavior of giant companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. And while it's not terribly likely a hacked-together campaign that prattles on about freedom is going to change that, it helps present the illusion that this is a debate that's far more publicly contentious than it actually is.