Several community groups listed as official members of Broadband for America, a thinly veiled anti-net neutrality organization that was funded by internet service providers, never actually signed up as supporters of the group, Vice reported this week.
Some have yet to take a position on the net neutrality issue because they have never even heard of net neutrality.
Vice’s earlier reporting found that Broadband for America, which opposes the FCC’s attempts to classify broadband as a utility, received much of its funding through a single contribution from the National Cable and Telecom Association, whose long list of media-focused member companies includes Comcast and Time Warner Cable.
Broadband for America describes itself as a "coalition of 300 internet consumer advocates, content providers, and engineers," but it made the mistake of listing these members on its website. When Vice reporters contacted some of these groups, many were surprised to learn that they were listed as members. Some demanded to be removed from the list of members, others said they would have to review Broadband for America before deciding whether they actually supported it, and one, the host of a radio program listed as a member, told Vice that he wasn't familiar with the net neutrality debate at all.
This isn’t the only example of the cable industry fighting dirty in the regulatory battle over broadband. A bill proposed in Kansas earlier this year attempted to prohibit municipalities within the state from providing broadband to their citizens, using language that both allowed ISPs to deny access to non-profitable regions and restricted those in the under-served areas from pursuing broadband access on their own. The bill was written by a lobbyist in the state, and many believed it was an attempt to prevent services like Google Fiber, which debuted in Kansas City, Kansas, from affecting ISPs' hold on other markets in the area.
The Kansas bill was taken down after the ensuing backlash from municipalities and net neutrality supporters. However, cable industry lobbyists have been successful in this effort in 20 different states.
This isn't even the first case in which the cable lobby has created the illusion of public support for its side in the net neutrality debate. Last September, The American Independent released its findings from an investigation of tax filings that found "that the telecom industry funneled millions of dollars into more than 30 'grassroots' foundations and think-tanks in an effort to persuade the FCC that consumers were opposed to net neutrality regulations."