WASHINGTON - August 10 - Judging from its name, "Hands off the Internet" sounds like a group of activists advocating for net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should allow users to access any web content or applications they choose, without discrimination, limitations or restrictions.
But actually, it is a telecommunications industry-backed operation with a high-profile spokesman spending $20,000 a day on television commercials aimed at eliminating long-standing net neutrality protections so that telephone and cable companies can maximize profit and minimize competition on the Internet.
Hands off the Internet is one of five "Astroturf" lobbying and other front groups exposed in a new Common Cause report that profiles these groups that try to appear as true grassroots, but are really about corporate money, not citizen power. In March, Common Cause profiled nine Astroturf and front groups seeking to influence Congress.
As these opponents of net neutrality and other consumer-friendly protections ratchet up their opposition on the television airwaves, Common Cause exposes five more: Hands off the Internet, NetCompetition.org, TV4US, The Future…Faster and Video Access Alliance. The report is called "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing Part II."
"These kinds of campaigns are dangerous for our democracy because they confuse and mislead citizens," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. "The public needs to know that many of these ads on TV right now touting so-called "consumer choice" and "consumer benefits" are just big business promises. The public's voice - what real people want and need out of our media system - is being left out of the debate."
Telecommunications reform will be a hot topic for Congress when it returns from August recess. Video franchising, competition, network neutrality and broadband access are all issues on the table, and they're worth potentially worth billions of dollars to the telecom industry. That's why Common Cause is shining a light on the front groups and Astroturf organizations that the telecom industry players are using. You can find a copy of the report on our website.
The previous report on Astroturf groups can be found here.