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[Updated] TeleScam Exposed: Who Really Runs NoNetBrutality.com?

Phillip Dampier May 11, 2010 Astroturf, Editorial & Site News, Net Neutrality, Public Policy & Gov't, Video 27 Comments

NoNetBrutality characterizes itself as a "grassroots campaign," but new evidence suggests it's actually just another telecom industry-backed astroturf group pretending to represent consumer interests.

On April 12th, a new voice joined the opposition to Net Neutrality reforms.  That was the date someone registered the domain name NoNetBrutality.com.  Just a few short days later, the group launched a basic website with a mission:

NoNetBrutality.com is a grassroots campaign with a triple mission. It seeks:

(1) to raise public awareness for the imminent threat of government take-over of the internet,
(2) to bring all net neutrality opponents together under one common banner,
(3) to petition the FCC not to go ahead with its attempts to regulate the internet.

NoNetBrutality.com was initiated by six liberty-minded activists from six different countries who fear that the current attempts of the U.S. government to restrict access to the internet might soon be followed by other governments if we don’t fight these flawed and dangerous ideas now – before they take root elsewhere.

The NoNetBrutality.com campaign was created by Kristin McMurray (United States), Yolanda Talavera (Nicaragua), Vincent De Roeck (Belgium), David MacLean (Canada), Huafang Li (China) and Aykhan Nasibli (Azerbaidjan), and formally launched in Washington D.C. on April 14th, 2010.

The group’s talking points about Net Neutrality are eerily in lockstep with those distributed by large phone and cable interests who oppose net freedom:

  • Net neutrality will take away incentives to invest and innovate – that means the internet will stop improving. Do you really want an internet czar to run the worldwide web and bureaucrats in charge of cyberspace?
  • Net neutrality will literally put the internet in “neutral.” Demand for Youtube, Bittorrent and streaming will grow, but who will pay for additional bandwidth if they aren’t allowed to charge for it anymore? Less options and less freedom for the consumers will be the ultimate consequence of these flawed ideas.
  • The FCC and others aim to regulate the internet in the same way as they control the television… There’s the real censorship! What will be the next step? Once the government has the mechanism in place to restrict internet access and to set prices, it is only a tiny step towards content control and taxes on internet use.
  • Everybody agrees that the internet is a resounding free market success story. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

You know what that means — that “grassroots campaign” is in reality yet another corporate-backed astroturf campaign desperately trying to hide its true backer — the telecommunications industry.

Here’s what NoNetBrutality left out of its “facts”:

  1. YouTube is owned by Google, which is a strong believer in Net Neutrality.
  2. No online service has suffered more at the hands of Internet Service Providers’ throttles than Bittorrent.  Net Neutrality would ban those throttles.
  3. The group ignores the multi-billion dollars in profit the broadband industry earns today from Internet service that is increasing in price at the same time costs to provide it are rapidly falling.
  4. The FCC proposes no content controls for broadband — only consumer protections to prohibit providers from manipulating broadband traffic for money.
  5. Everyone does not agree that the Internet is a “resounding free market success story.”  In fact, the United States has lost its former lead on Internet speed and adoption, and today is still dropping.  We now have worse service than many Asian and East European countries, and providers are trying to test new Internet Overcharging schemes t0 limit consumption and increase prices even higher.  That’s success?  Only for them.

So who is NoNetBrutality.com and Kristin McMurray, the American creator of the campaign?

McMurray's day job is to develop and run social media campaigns for corporate interests seeking to build support for their public policy agenda

Kristin McMurray is a social media strategist — a hired gun for corporate interests that want social-network-street-cred but don’t exactly know how to create an authentic-looking campaign that fulfills their corporate agenda.

McMurray has a history with corporate-backed conservative think tanks, particularly Americans for Limited Government, a group the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity reports is 99 percent funded by three unnamed sources.  The group has routinely denied requests to identify where their backing comes from.  She also was hired to run a campaign for a climate change denial group.

McMurray tracks her site visitors carefully with Alterian’s SM2, a social media monitoring and analysis solution designed for PR and Marketing professionals. Alterian SM2 “helps you track conversations, review positive/negative sentiment for your brand, clients, competitors and partners across social media channels such as blogs, wikis, micro-blogs, social networks, video/photo sharing sites and real-time alerts.”

Grassroots this isn’t.

Accidental Evidence: The Consequences of An Exposed PowerPoint Presentation

Someone left their PowerPoint slides laying around for anyone to pick up and review.  That turned out to be about as foolish as the guy who left his field test version of Apple’s newest iPhone in a bar.

Now the truth can be told.

Think Progress managed to obtain a copy of the presentation, and it says quite a bit about just how much grassroots are actually growing at NoNetBrutality.com.  Let’s put it this way, if you were allergic to actual grass, you’d have no problems at all rolling around in NoNetBrutality’s astroturf.

It turns out NoNetBrutality is the creature of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, itself heavily backed by corporate interests.

And you thought it was “six liberty-minded activists from six different countries.”  Not so much.

Atlas, which counts among its proud moments a corporate strategy to protect Big Tobacco, helps corporations coordinate their front group strategies.  Norquist takes corporate agendas and spins them into grass roots efforts in return for money.  He was caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal when the disgraced lobbyist promised one of Norquist’s front groups $50,000 in exchange for “grassroots” support.

Of course, you aren’t supposed to know any of this.  Groups like NoNetBrutality are designed to hide their true ties and claim they are run by ordinary concerned citizens making their individual voices heard.  Too bad that PowerPoint presentation blew the lid off by telling a much different story.

One of the PowerPoint slides that wasn't supposed to become public knowledge

Net Neutrality is like what China does: “Putting policemen on every corner, on the street or on the Internet.” — Grover Norquist

Norquist’s bizarre interpretation of Net Neutrality shines through in NoNetBrutality’s own campaign.  On one of the PowerPoint slides, NoNetBrutality even cooks up a Chinese blog to underline Norquist’s world view that Net Neutrality can be compared with Chinese government censorship.

Every astroturf group has a target audience.  NoNetBrutality is no different:

Target Groups

  • Libertarian like minded Internet users and video gamers
  • Fiscal and Social Conservative Activists, Campaigners and Think Tanks
  • Internet Service Providers and Communications companies
  • Policy makers (Legislators, Regulators, Public officials)

For groups like NoNetBrutality, getting corporate and conservative support means being a cog in the wheel at Grover’s infamous Wednesday strategy sessions.  One of the PowerPoint slides calls attention to just how important these meetings are in the effort to coordinate opposition to consumer-friendly broadband reform.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, outraged consumers have invaded the group’s primary social media outlets.  Their Facebook page is now loaded with comments from those upset about the fact the entire effort is little more than another bought-and-paid-for deception effort from the telecom industry.  Twitter is now used more to expose the group than to promote it.

The ironic part is that the very group that seems so alarmed by the prospect of “government censorship of the Internet” has no problems censoring its own Facebook page to remove posts that it determines are “off topic” or “not polite.”

[Update Wednesday 3:20pm — This “group” came out of the closet this morning as a “class project” funded by Atlas, and attacked Think Progress for overreaching as to the group’s own importance in the Net Neutrality debate.  You can read my extended thoughts on today’s developments in the Comments section.  In short, I think today’s revelations may actually do even more damage to their credibility than earlier thought.  What does it say about a group of people willing to attend a “school” (and the “school” itself) that actively teaches how to develop and launch highly-deceptive fake grassroots campaigns designed to fool consumers?  Today they are downplaying the entire affair as “funny,” but if you were a visitor to their website, would you be laughing to learn the group isn’t really run by “six liberty-minded activists from six different countries” but rather those budding to learn the craft of sock-puppetry?

I think it’s sad some people have a moral code that says intentional deception in a public policy fight is just fine.  When you lie to your supporters and opponents about who you really are, and then say it’s “funny” when you come clean later,  they are left with little more than to ponder whether you were lying to them then or lying to them now.]

Currently there are 27 comments on this Article:

  1. SAL-e says:

    Looks like that more and more corporations are trying to build reality-distortion field. They build ‘corporate blogs’ with comments, but delete any comment that criticize them or exposes them. They leave comments that only support their own agenda.
    There is tool that could help. Sometime ago Google introduced SideWiki.
    Using SideWiki we can leave exposing information to fake groups like nonetbrutality.org. The best part is that information is stored on Google servers and Lobbyist can’t delete it. I hope that Google starts to index SideWiki and show it in their search results. What we can do to become effective is to actively using SideWiki to provide links and information exposing Astroturf organizations like this one.

  2. Hah! says:

    Hey, Nice scoop there Phil… Astroturf huh? Why don’t you go to their website and read what’s posted there. If by “astroturf” you mean the whopping $200 in funding this STUDENT got for her CLASS PROJECT then have it at it my paranoid little friend.

    You guys are a hoot with your “investigations.” Maybe you guys should get real jobs instead of posing as investigative reporters. Leave the investigations to the professionals like Declan McCullagh rather than 2nd rate, unemployed, paranoid, utopian muckrakers sitting around their basements in their boxer shorts “exposing” astroturf.

    ‘Secret’ telecom anti-Net neutrality plan isn’t
    by Declan McCulagh


    • I’ve been to her website. I’ve also read the CNET article. Neither seems to tell the entire story and misses the greater truth here:

      You may have an issue with how Think Progress came about the group’s PowerPoint presentation, but then again if none of this was a secret, why all the secrecy on NoNetBrutality’s own website as to why it was developed and who funded it. Maybe I’m getting old, but I never had to put my “class work” online -and- obfuscate what it was really all about.

      1) This “student” is actually self-described as a “Social Media Specialist. In 2006 I moved from the Big Mitten (Michigan) to Chicago, after graduating from Central Michigan University with a degree in Public Relations. After arriving in Chicago, I promptly threw my degree in traditional public relations out of the window in favor of working the new media angle at the Sam Adams Alliance.”

      That’s not me saying it… that’s a direct quote from her own website. I guess we won’t be meeting up with her at the mall after class.

      Under your definition of student, even corporate CEOs who take a seminar could be also considered “students” in that case.

      We’re not talking about a Junior Achievement high school project here, either. This “class project” as the group now wants to define it isn’t as innocent as you’d have us believe, as Atlas themselves admits: “Atlas’s goal through this program is to provide each participant with a well-developed think tank business plan, an increased knowledge of organizational management, and a network of like-minded partners from the Atlas global think tank movement.”


      It’s also fascinating to note participants of the Think Tank MBA program get to also attend the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank — the perfect meet and greet for budding think tank operators to manage new contacts with the movers, shakers, and financial backers.

      2) Let’s ask ourselves how much integrity comes from a “class project” (and the group that financed it), that openly deceives its visitors with claims of being a “grassroots” effort and is still up and running well after Astroturf School was dismissed?

      With the very best interpretation of this affair, it’s a school designed to teach people to launch deceptive issues campaigns.

      3) It’s a tad convenient to accept that a self-described “grassroots campaign” (their website didn’t say a thing about a class project at the time this article was written), whose true association with Atlas was embarrassingly revealed, is now just a group of innocent students just trying to cram for a school project.

      It was only this morning that their visitors learned the effort wasn’t the work of “six liberty-minded activists from six different countries” but rather just what we said it was — an Atlas-backed project. Regardless of whether it was a school project (which seems to be ongoing even after “graduation”) or a multimillion dollar obfuscation campaign, they lied. Doesn’t that give any visitor the right to ponder were they lying about who they were then or are they lying now?

      4) The biggest question I am left asking is what does this entire affair say about Atlas and those who eagerly wanted to go to Astroturf School. The graduates were taught to launch fake grassroots campaigns that deceive consumers about who they are and what they are really all about.

      At the same time, those willing to engage in that morally-questionable behavior also get to make invaluable connections with those who are ready and willing to pay substantially more to launch additional fake campaigns down the road, all coordinated and/or financed by the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Atlas. They might even manage a six figure salary at one of the nation’s telecom firms or the lobbying firms they use.

      Just for the record: this website and those who develop content for it do not go to Think Tank Astroturf Schools, do not hide any funding by third party groups (because we don’t have any) , and our About Us page isn’t a piece of fiction, like NoNetBrutality has on offer, even now that the truth has come out.

      We also don’t develop our content in basements, and I’m a boxer-briefs kinda guy.

      Unlike so many Net Neutrality opponents, we have absolutely nothing to hide — not about where our stories come from, who finances us, and what this effort is all about.

  3. Mike says:

    This so called student project doesn’t quite add up, how is it a lady with Kristin McMurray’s professional astroturfing credentials involved in creating it?

    How little money they got handed by a lobbyist funded think tank that financed this project that just happens to echo the industries talking points doesn’t invalidate any attempt to expose their sham.

    Given the backlash after their so called grass roots campaign was discovered and exposed on Facebook, Twitter, and the web.. their credibility is burned and useless as there’s no way they can cash in on any further lobbyist money or make any legitimate claims (not that they did in the first place).

    Media reports targetting the creators might have been off, but this whole episode only reinforces how desperate the industry is to finance and push their agenda with any means possible.

    Doesn’t seem any different to me than the groups that stuff $20 bills into peoples hands to show and fill seats or attend rallies for various astroturf events.

    If this project was to be a success, it wouldn’t have been found out in the first place, now they just seem bitter, and are attempting to diffuse it as a ‘joke’ and low level class project when it was neither.

    • Yeah… the story has moved way beyond the mechanics of how this website was born and with their own admission, has now opened up a barrel of new questions about just how the Astroturf Factory got started in the first place.

      Who knew you could go to school for a think tank degree in baffling consumers with BS.

      It certainly is a growth industry — just click the Astroturf link at the top left and put your browser on deep wade. 🙂

  4. I see they are now moderating comments left on their website, so here is a copy of what I wrote them this afternoon, just in case it somehow doesn’t get approved:

    So wait, let me understand all this.

    You think it’s good news and downright amusing that you’ve finally come clean this morning that you aren’t, in fact, “a grassroots campaign run by six liberty-minded activists from six different countries” but rather graduates of an Astroturf School that teaches students how to launch and run deceptive campaigns and think tanks?

    Of course, before this morning, none of this dismissive “it’s just a school project” stuff ever appeared on this website. Maybe I’m too old, but I don’t recall ever having to post my class work online and actively deceive anyone who visited the page as to the true nature and purpose of that work.

    I think your revelation has backfired and will do even more damage to your credibility than I earlier thought. What does it say about a group of people willing to attend a “school” (and the “school” itself) that actively teaches how to develop and launch highly-deceptive fake grassroots campaigns designed to fool consumers?

    If I was an opponent of Net Neutrality and visited your site, I probably wouldn’t be joining in your laughter when I learned your entire effort was nothing more than a two week class project (that somehow remains online and active even after “graduation.”) I’d feel duped by a group of people practicing the corporate art of sock-puppetry.

    I think it’s sad some people have a morals code that says it’s okay to engage in intentional deception like this website has done about its purpose and backing. A real grassroots campaign isn’t born from a school project and isn’t financed (in any dollar amount) by a think tank that exists to educate and coordinate issues campaigns for corporate benefactors.

    When you lie to your supporters (and opponents) about who you really are, then dismiss it all away with a wave and a laugh after-the-fact, everyone is left wondering whether you were lying to us then or lying to us now.

    Admitting you weren’t being honest about this website’s purpose will probably haunt you well into the future should you ever venture into the Astroturf world again.

  5. Carl Hardwick says:

    Nice pivot.

    Your story went from “We have secret documents from the telecom industry showing their net neutrality strategy” to “The authors were part of an student astroturf campaign”.

    That’s an enormous fall from grace.

    One second you’re crowing about finding secret telecom strategy documents. Documents so secret that even you admit that they were left online for “world+dog” to find and read. Wow, that’s what I call a secret!

    Next second you’re whining (whinging?) about how those “students” were somehow engaged in a nefarious corporate plot.

    Look, you blew it. You didn’t have secret telecom documents. You didn’t have a scoop. All you had was a dumbass powerpoint presentation made by a bunch of amateurs.

    And in CYA mode, you had to find something to complain about. So now you’re saying those aren’t “students” working on a $100 budget, they’re actually corporate shills working on a $100 budget.

    You made a mistake. You were fooled because you wanted to be fooled. Admit it and move on.

    BTW, I’m against byte caps, UBB and bandwidth throttling. I think that kind of bandwidth management is an attempt by monopolists to maximize their profits at the expense of everyone in society.

    I think the shift to a web economy makes everything more time efficient and any impediment to using more bandwidth is bad for everyone. A small group of telecom companies should not be allowed to control access to the Internet.

    However, IMO this secret PowerPoint debacle can only do one thing, damage the credibility of the forces who oppose bandwidth management by telecoms.

    • You quoted two things that were never in our piece. As I wrote above, you may have an issue as to how Think Progress portrayed the PowerPoint presentation, but we didn’t call it “secret.” We also never claimed we were the ones “finding secret documents.” We didn’t call it a scoop, nor some exclusive revelation. We instead linked to Think Progress’ piece regarding those slides.

      Astroturf groups are regularly written about here. We never relied entirely on the PowerPoint presentation either — in fact it made up only a part of our story.

      This is Stop the Cap! Think Progress is another website.

      I also question your assertion those slides were easy to find. They sure weren’t on the group’s own website. It’s a shame anyone had to go looking. True grassroots campaigns wouldn’t host them on a corporate-backed think tank like Atlas in the first place.

      The revelation of what was contained within those slides was quite damaging to their cause, however. That was what blew the lid off, and the damage control campaign this afternoon on their website appears to be a losing cause, considering the avalanche of negative comments over there (those that make it through the group’s filter, that is.)

      The culmination of all this is that:

      a) the group lied when it claimed it was “not affiliated with any companies or organizations, and is a concerned citizens project.”

      b) the group lied when it said “NoNetBrutality.com is a grassroots campaign.”

      c) the group confessed it’s not “initiated by six liberty-minded activists from six different countries” but rather now claims to be a student project for an Astroturf training course.

      d) it proves our ongoing contention that groups opposing Net Neutrality regularly turn out not to be the pro-consumer grassroots efforts they typically claim to be, and often hide their funding sources.

      I’m quite comfortable with our coverage on this story, especially considering the long history we’ve had confronting these types of groups. Once again, compare our “About Us” page with theirs. We have nothing to hide. They did.

      As to your comments about byte caps, welcome to the fight!

    • Jason says:

      The Think Progress group is the one that sourced the Power Point presentation and much of the over the top language was taken from, not stopthecap. I’d suggest reading it over again more carefully?

      So far these purported “amateurs” and students appear to be working professionals already in or looking to enter the astroturf “new media” business of which developed this anti-NN project and formed the strategy in the power point presentation.

      Why should this be dropped? I’d like to see a lot more investigation on the people and course, rather than the people just trying to seize on the “haha” aspect which turned out to still be bogus.

      Because Cnet.com “broke” the news and did such a shoddy followup glossing over vital points in order to profit off the extra page views by causing all the drama, folks like Phillip are having to go back over the facts in the story that still haven’t changed.

  6. Michael Chaney says:

    So they claim to have spent $125 ($25 over-budget) for this, so will they keep paying DreamHost $9 a month to host this site? If it’s still up in a month then we’ll know that these “student” continue to get funding. Unless they’re doing this out of their own pocket, and we all know how college kids have tons of extra money.

    • Anonymous for a Reason says:

      I ran across Stop the Cap because of the Newsbusters article.

      While I dont believe in government ever getting anything right and am not a supporter of net neutrality I think your website has gotten a bad rap being thrown in with Think Progress socialists. AFAIK, you don’t seem to really be a lefty blog because you seem to be non-partisan on broadband. Just be careful about signing up to causes from the Center for American Progress, which is as lefty as you can get.

      Let me share with you my own secret. I applied to attend the last Atlas Think Tank MBA course they held before the April session. Anyone saying this is just a school doing class projects is nutso. This is an elite training course that is only open to around two dozen people each session, which is why I didn’t get to go. A colleague of mine did get to go and it helped him get his foot in the door at a free market think tank in the DC suburbs. It is resume material for conservative political circles and a fabulous opportunity to network. If you want a career as a lobbyist or are bold enough to start your own group for conservative causes, the TTMBA is cream of the crop.

      They teach you how to design a group, quietly finance it and screen the message to make sure it aligns with the rest of the conservative movement. If Kristin went through what I would have, you only get a few days to build a group and develop a marketing strategy to sell it to financial backers, which would usually be private companies or individuals. Thats why those slides had references to supporting groups. If you can sell your idea to a major mainstream conservative group, you can get a flood of support and backing.

      I still get their literature. One of the requirements Kristin would have to meet to have gone is that she already had to have prior management experience and was currently in the top leadership of an existing non profit organization that believes in the free market. The group has to be around for at least 18 months too.

      It costs $500 (my group was willing to pay my way) for admission, plus your own airfare unless you got a complimentary scholarship.

      You are 100% right to say this isn’t a high school civics lesson. This is an elite path into a career in professional lobbying. They give you a Certificate of Completion at the end which is something you want to bring to a job interview at DC PR firms that serve conservative causes….

      The reason I am writing this is that I think you need to know these kinds of groups exist on the political left too. I was prepared to come here tonight and rip you a new one if you were a partisan lefty group because your accusations would be hypocritical (and wrong). But it appears Newsbusters is just grouping you in with Think Progress and I think that isnt fair. You got most of the facts right, except for relying on Think Progress. I also think its ridiculous for Kristin’s group to think they are prosecuted. It looks to me like Kristin is trying to take her concept live as an actual group. Telecommunications money is not hard to get to back their causes. If you want to play in the real world you have to take your licks.

      Like an earlier person, I also oppose bitcaps. I just think more competition is what we need and keeping the government out of it is the best solution. I think you will do good work if you stay out of one political corner or the other. Dont be left or right, its not a left or right issue anyway.

      • Jim C says:

        Anon…. this says everything that has to be said. After all the BS spinning from the people trying to milk sympathy for this poor “student” it turns out from someone who should know this whole thing is just a seminar to teach people how to set up websites that lie about who they are and who gives them the money. Kristin deserved to win an A. She lied about who her group was, that Atlas coughed up the candy to pay for it, and that its not the grassroots she promised. ATT and Verizon will love her.

  7. Smith6612 says:

    It’s ironic that I came across this article and saw the page of the PowerPoint Presentation mentioning video gamers. I’m curious to know if they are aware that video gamers such as I are very easy to get enraged if things such as our Internet connections are messed with.

  8. Chase says:

    I see a lot of conspiracy and not a whole lot of truth in all your claims.

    Few things though.

    Americans for limited governments donors in 2005, is just the biggest straw man ever seriously. Considering the fact that if you use Fund Race on Huffington Post you can look up all the telecom companies CEOs and notice they all donate to Democrats. Unless you bring up Ivan Seidenberg the CEO of Verizon who weirdly donated to McCain and Clinton in the same quarter in 2007, but the big bad Comcast CEO is a full fledged Democrat. Unless of course this is another conspiracy that they only donate to Democrats to hide their mischievous plans. Too lazy to re-rant, midway through typing I realized I forgot about AT&T and looked the CEO up and he happens to donate to Republicans with a small mixture of Dems, mainly Jay Rockefeller who gave them immunity for helping with FISA warrants.

    So off the rant there, ALGs 2005 budget getting donations from Democratic supporters to fund a net neutrality Astroturf in 2010, is nothing more the conspiracy.

    Tobacco part…. LOVE IT!

    Anyways I’m going to basically stop ranting because I know you really aren’t going to do any sort of research as your own story shows, but if you ever want to email me and we can debate each other on net neutrality with voice chat with any source you want, pal talk, msn, skype, vent, ts2, ts3…. etc and we both will can record it and put it up on youtube. beware though big supporter of free markets, property rights, and know a lot about how japans and south koreas cheap faster internet would violate the 5th amendment.

    Oh yeah, AFP isn’t the US government, freedom of speech doesn’t matter when they stop it, because if someone started posting racist messages on their thing you KNOW you WOULD of posted that in this article.

    • Chase, if you’ve been here long, you’ll know and agree we are very bipartisan when it comes to calling out legislators on the telecom dole. Just read our coverage on the situation in North Carolina. All of that anti-consumer activity is fueled by Democrats in the state legislature.

      Where telecom money skews the debate, we’ll call it out no matter what party is involved.

      As to broadband, philosophically I believe it’s becoming a utility-style service, and I am not comfortable with the notion of a duopoly maintaining control over who gets it, at what speeds, and at what (increasing) price. I’d prefer competition resolve this, but as we’ve seen the chances of that actually delivering for most Americans just isn’t there under the current framework.

      The free market mantra in broadband works when there is healthy competition. When there isn’t, our broadband rankings drop while Americans pay higher and higher prices for service. I’m not interested in waiting for the magic beans of imaginary competition in today’s duopoly to solve this, particularly when carriers are planning additional Internet Overcharging schemes like usage caps, so-called consumption billing that doesn’t reflect actual costs, and trying to monetize the transport of content by third parties — content which is the very driver that compels people to subscribe to broadband service in the first place.

      Our readers are free to bring their own arguments and evidence to the table for discussion. As another commenter wrote, this isn’t a right or left argument. The solutions almost certainly come from a combination of competition and oversight that has, for a change, the consumer as the big winner.

      I appreciate everyone’s insight on this issue. It’s a new day, and there are new stories for us to cover, so let’s get on with it. 🙂

  9. Doc_Navy says:


    “What does it say about a group of people willing to attend a “school” (and the “school” itself) that actively teaches how to develop and launch highly-deceptive fake grassroots campaigns designed to fool consumers?”

    Hmm, I dunno.. maybe they are training to work for the DNC, or possibly Moveon.org both of whom have sponsored “Astroturf” and continue to support and/or sponsor “astroturf”.

    That said… I think that Lachlan Markay over at newsbusters answers your question PERFECTLY,

    “Stop the Cap has reverted to questioning the integrity of the six students who created the project, saying they are “budding to learn the craft of sock-puppetry.” I suppose that’s better than making up conspiracy theories and playing false populist.”

    That’s what you get for jumping to the head of the line to sling mud, buddy. It’s almost as bad as that DKoS kid who wanted the Times Square Bomber to be a teapartier so bad he actually put up a poll asking other Koskids who they thought was the identity of the bomber was… over 70% picked the “crazy right-wing loony” option, then they found out how wrong they were.

    At least the KoSkid had the sack to admit he was wrong afterward, and could possibly be judging the Teapartiers a little unfairly. You just moved on to disparaging the motivations and ethics of the students and their school. Nice.


    • Jim C says:

      Newsbusters is a right wing group that would defend this kind of astroturf. I love it when you guys complain about Media Matters or Kos but think nothing of using a site like Newsbusters like it is some authority. Its just another echo chamber.

  10. Hah! says:

    What you and Free Press and others are doing here is thuggery pure and simple. You’re taking shots at a college student doing a class project. You’re dragging her name through the mud and it’s absolutely despicable. Is it because she’s a conservative? Because she has a different point of view than you?

    Your “scoop” has been completely discredited. Free Press and Center for American Progress are the thuggery units for their foundation masters who are spending millions to have the government regulate the Internet (Ford Foundation alone is contributing $50 million to this effort).

    You talk about astroturf, but the astroturf dollars received by the Freepers and CAP far dwarf the $200 this student spent on her class project. I used to be amused by Free Press’ and their Socialist views. The fact that their founder wants to use the media to “remove brick by brick the entire capitalist system” I thought was silly. Now, given their attacks on this student, I’m changing my opinion… It’s dangerous… Read your history. It’s exactly what the Bolsheviks did — kneecapping anyone who disagreed with them.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Michael Chaney says:

      And yet her website is still up…..even after the project is over. Why is that? Who will continue to fund the web hosting for this over-budget project next month?

    • Jim C says:

      Oh c’mon. This woman is not a “college student.” Read her own website. She is a professional PR hack working for conservative groups and is now selling her services to various causes, including this one, to whoever will pay the price.

      Take a look at Atlas website promotion of the MBA Think Tank School. It costs $500 plus airfare to go for 12 days of ‘intense’ education in how to build your own think tank and astroturfer group. You meet with all the important people who will plug you in to big corporate dollars and also set your career path on steroids right into a cushy lobbying job in DC for six figures.

      The “thuggery” you mention is against CONSUMERS… US! Who do you think pays the money companies use to spend on these campaigns and donate to groups like Atlas….. we do! I don’t blame this Kristin woman for wanting a piece of the action, but she shouldn’t play innocent victim. Nobody buys it.

      Tell me how government is going to regulate the Internet with Net Neutrality. It’s total BS. Net Neutrality stops ISPs from regulating your use of the service to reach websites that didnt cough up enough $$$$ to let you through.

      You need to turn off Glenn Beck and get a life. There is no socialism here, unless the definition changed when I was asleep. What there is is an oligarchy of companies using their power to charge us more and more and give less and less.

      If you can afford to be used like this, more power to you….. the rest of us can’t!

      • Hah! says:

        “Tell me how government is going to regulate the Internet with Net Neutrality. It’s total BS. Net Neutrality stops ISPs from regulating your use of the service to reach websites that didnt cough up enough $$$$ to let you through.”

        “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in
        the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” Free Press Founder and Chairman Robert McChesney

        There is no socialism here, unless the definition changed when I was asleep.

        “There is no real answer [to the U.S. economic crisis] but to remove brick by brick the capitalist
        system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.” Free Press Founder and Chairman Robert McChesney

        “…any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.” Free Press Founder and Chairman Robert McChesney

        “Advertising is the voice of capital. We need to do whatever we can to limit capitalist propaganda, regulate it, minimize it, and perhaps even eliminate it.” Free Press Founder and Chairman Robert McChesney

        “Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism.” Free Press Chairman and Founder Robert McChesney

        I guess you were asleep…

        • Ron Dafoe says:

          Too bad the majority of us here want better, cap free internet with competition. For all you net nuetrailty naysayers – I bet most of you don’t even really have a grasp of how the internet actually works, how we transistioned from BBSs (BTW, back then the telephone companies wanted to make people pay an additional fee if there was a modem or fax connected to the line) to the internet. Most of you are talking parrots.

          There are alot of us that actually participated in this stuff – way back in the BBS days. We know the technology. We have had the technology along the way. We have struggled with the service providers for a long time.

          The “pipes” of the internet should be neutral and free of all the crap that these companies want to do. Network management is one thing, but when I hear that Google should not be able to use “our” pipes without paying more money from the heads of corporations, that is when I know they do not even have a grasp of how things work.

          Before you say there hasn’t been issues – think again. There has, multiple times. Everything from slowing down access to certain web sites to servering connectivity to certain networks has happened. Also, the equivilent of opening your mail during delivery, changing what is inside it, and then resealing the envelope has happened.

          You will find that the majority of the people here believe this is NOT a political issue. The people that make it a political issue are part of the problem, IMO.

          The people that are on the right or left that line up like the good soldiers they are, are part of the problem. This should transcend party lines, but it can’t in the political climate of today. Each side is too busy making sure the other side can’t get things done, no matter what it is.

          • Michael Chaney says:

            This really isn’t a Republican/Democrat or a conservative/liberal issue. It’s an individualism vs. fascist corporatism issue. Government isn’t the only entity capable of stomping on your individual liberties, A handful of large corporations who control the “pipes” is not only capable but is driven to maximize profits at the expense of whatever individual liberty we and our representative government allows. There are bad actors and paid sock puppets on both side of the isle, and we expose and fight them all here at Stop the Cap.

            Limited government AND corporate intrusion in our individual liberties is a key value of the Republican party, but don’t let the fight against one side of the equation be co-opted into a fight for the other side. The phrase “limited government” implies that some limited government intervention is necessary, as is the case when a few corporations are powerful enough to adversely affect our individual liberties. Neither side of the isle believes that fascist corporatism and monopolistic practices are in the best interest of our country.

  11. Richard says:

    It’s hilarious how everyone here is making mountains out of molehills.

    Could it be within the realm of possibility that Kristin and her colleagues are genuinely concerned about the idea of so-called Net Neutrality and decided to make a website with a catchy name to argue against it?

    Kristin’s a professional, but what does that matter? She and her team were charged with completing a project over a short period of time, and they did it. Do you think your overreaction was also part of her “master plan?” If so, it’s working pretty well, huh? A+!

    Falling back from claiming the site is a product of the telecom industry to admitting it’s a project from a training program has got to be pretty rough. Sit here and tell me with a straight face that Net Neutrality proponents don’t have such programs to launch websites and Facebook pages.

    Just saying something is “astroturf” doesn’t make it so, nor does it make an effort disingenuous. My advice is for you to stop screaming slurs, get your facts straight, and argue the points in a rational manner. If you believe your side to be true, then trust that others on the other side are also acting in good faith and begin a real debate.

    • I have absolutely no doubt that Kristin and the corporate interests ultimately behind No Net Brutality do genuinely believe Net Neutrality is a bad thing and are “concerned” about it. That doesn’t make it astroturf. What makes it astroturf is that No Net Brutality made specific claims about it being a individual effort when it was not, that it was a grassroots effort when it was not. No mention of their corporate sponsorship was given, and no mention that this was a “class project” was given. It is those misrepresentations that elevate this to astroturf.

      And no, it is not rational to blindly accept that those on the other side are acting in good faith, not when we have a demonstrated history of deception from them. Everyone, regardless of where they fall on the issue of Net Neutrality, should be questioning both the other side and their own. And here at Stop The Cap, the effort is indeed genuine and driven by consumer interests. There is no corporate or other sponsorship here. Can the same be said of the other side? When you play the game of “follow the money” where does it lead you?

    • We have dialogue all the time with the anti-Net Neutrality folks who honestly represent themselves and we ultimately end up either convincing them they’ve been mislead about what Net Neutrality *really is* (it’s not a “government takeover of the Internet) or we agree to disagree.

      What I loathe are sock puppets who claim to represent consumer grassroots opposition to Net Neutrality but later turn out to be funded by a think tank, PR firm, or telecommunications company. Laying the foundation for a debate requires the audience to know who is participating. We fully disclosed who we were on day one. That’s untrue for Kristin’s group.

      Kristin’s group, as we’ve now learned, is funded by Atlas. No, it’s not an enormous sum, but it’s one they never disclosed and deceived their visitors about when they claimed on their About Us page they had no affiliation with any group or organization. That was false!

      Our experience with the sock puppets is a near-daily routine for us:

      Broadband for America, which we wrote about last fall, has around 100 members, almost every single one of which either:

      a) sells to the telecom companies;
      b) receives corporate donations from telecom companies;
      c) has telecom company executives on their board.

      When a Native American group or a cattle association suddenly starts sending telecom-provided talking points to the FCC opposing this or that telecom policy, it raises eyebrows. Why are these groups compelled to address an issue far away from their core mission? When you discover they received a $50,000 check from AT&T or Verizon, that starts to explain a lot. Some of these groups will take money from anyone. I was amused when a group supposedly representing Latino-Americans suddenly took a strong interest in the selloff of Verizon landlines in northern New England — a real hotbed of Latino culture. Or when that same group demanded the FCC approve the merger of Sirius and XM Radio. Follow the money.

      I don’t deny there is content provider money going into the pro-Net Neutrality side either. Google, Amazon, and others have a stake and there are groups taking their money to represent their positions. WE ARE NOT ONE OF THEM. I am proud (and poor) to say Stop the Cap! accepts no industry money of any kind. All of our contributions come from individuals and out of my own pocket. Not one of them has been more than $100 a pop, so Kristin already had a bigger budget than we did when this site started.

      I’m not a PR consultant or social media professional. I’m just a consumer.

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