Cable companies accused of faking consumer opposition to net neutrality

A coalition of top pay TV service providers has reportedly deployed a powerful Republican lobbying firm to create faux consumer opposition to net neutrality.

According to a disclosure obtained by Vice from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), groups largely funded by the industry trade organization have retained the services of the DCI Group, a lobbying firm that specializes in creating what are widely referred to in Washington as "astroturfing" campaigns, or creating fake consumer groups to support corporate interests.

In this case, of course, the NCTA's constituents, many of which are top Internet service providers, are interested in not having the Federal Communications Commission reclassify broadband service as a utility.

Vice notes that nonprofits Broadband for America and the American Consumer Institute, which have been fighting against such reclassification, are heavily funded by the pay-TV industry. According to the NCTA disclosure, more than half of Broadband for America's $3.5 million budget comes from a $2 million NCTA donation--money that has been used to enlist DCI Group's help.

Vice also reports that the American Consumer Institute has been supported since 2010 by the ISP lobby group

The work of these groups hasn't been altogether transparent. For example, a reader had to skim to the byline at the end of the May 14thSan Francisco Chronicle guest column titled "Don't make the Internet a public utility," to find out that authors Republican Senator John Sununu and former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford are honorary co-chairs for Broadband for America. 

For more:
- read this Vice story
- read this TechCrunch story
- read this Ars Technica story

Related links:
Net neutrality: a stab in the dark?
Netflix deals with Verizon, Comcast aren't helping net neutrality, but does that matter?
AT&T's Cicconi says net neutrality debate feels like 'Groundhog Day'