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Special Report — Who’s Who of Broadband for America: Telecom Industry Connections Exposed

Be Sure to Read Part One: Astroturf Overload — Broadband for America = One Giant Industry Front Group for an important introduction to what this super-sized industry front group is all about.

Members of Broadband for America

Red: A company or group actively engaging in anti-consumer lobbying, opposes Net Neutrality, supports Internet Overcharging, belongs to an astroturf group, or is an astroturf group itself.
Blue: An equipment supplier whose bread is buttered by the telecommunications industry, but doesn’t go out of their way to actively engage in anti-consumer activities.
Purple: A telecommunications company providing broadband service.
Black: A group or organization about which there is insufficient evidence to connect them to a specific astroturfer, lobbying firm, telecommunications provider, or other aligned special interest.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t ties yet to be uncovered.  Considering the overwhelming majority of BfA members have a vested interest towards the broadband industry, you can draw your own conclusions.

Actiontec Electronics, Inc. — Actiontec is an equipment provider selling high speed Internet modems and routers. Their customers include Verizon, Qwest, TDS, MTS and hundreds of smaller carriers throughout North America. More importantly, it is a member of the notorious anti-regulatory, anti-Net Neutrality “Hands Off the Internet” group run for and by the telecommunications industry. Actiontec is also a member of TV4Us, a group Common Cause called the very definition of Astroturf. It advocates for franchising reform (taking away local government oversight) and hates Net Neutrality. Actiontec took even more action by signing a letter by Netcompetition opposing Net Neutrality.

ADC Telecommunications, Inc. — ADC sells broadband network infrastructure products and services that enable the profitable delivery of high-speed Internet, video, data, and voice services to residential, business and mobile subscribers. Among their clients: AT&T, British Telecom, Comcast, Sprint Nextel, Qwest, T-Mobile, and Verizon. They are also listed as a member of “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition opposing Net Neutrality.

Advanced Digital Broadcast — ADB provides digital set-top boxes for including cable, IPTV, satellite and terrestrial providers.

Alloptic — Sells central office and customer premise equipment to deploy Fiber-to-the-Business and Fiber-to-the-Home.

American Agri-Women — A national coalition of farm, ranch, and agri-business organizations, AAW’s involvement in telecommunications issues is not prominent on their website. The group’s 2009 position statement has one sentence about telecommunications issues: “AAW supports a full range of ownership of telecommunications infrastructure including entrepreneurs, large corporations, municipalities, and other units of local government.”

American Association of People with Disabilities — AAPD gets major donations from both Verizon and the Verizon Foundation, and put a Verizon VP, Richard T. Ellis – on its board (2005). It participated in multiple Verizon-based campaigns, including part of a group put together by Issue Dynamics, a Washington DC public relations firm, that jointly signed an ex parte letter to the FCC, explaining why the Bell companies should not have to open their fiber-optic networks to competition. (Source: Harvard Nieman)

American Council on Renewable Energy — What do C. Boyden Gray, big industry lobbyist and ex-aide to former President George Herbert Walker Bush, and Amory Lovins, alternative energy guru, agree on? The need for a big-bucks trade association that can “bring renewable energy into the mainstream of America’s economy and lifestyle” and otherwise spread the gospel about solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass, biofuels, waste energy and hydrogen energy systems. (Source: Sourcewatch) Their position on telecommunications and broadband issues is not clear from their website.

Americans for Technology Leadership — Americans for Technology Leadership was founded by Jonathan Zuck in 1999 as a “grassroots” organization for concerned consumers who want less regulation in the technology sector.  It also campaigns on general tech issues such as spam.  It has been frequently described as a Microsoft front group.  ATL’s domain name, techleadership.org, is registered to the Association for Competitive Technology.  The site is hosted by Thomas E. Stock and Thomas J. Synhorst’s LLC, TSE Enterprises.  Synhorst is a founding member of the DCI Group, a Washington DC-based strategic consulting and lobbying firm which has counted Microsoft as a prime client for a number of years. (Source: Sourcewatch)

ARRIS — ARRIS provides broadband technology for the cable industry. ARRIS products help cable operators provide cable TV and telephony, high-speed Internet and data access. The ARRIS product line includes cable modem and wireless broadband products, infrastructure for digital video and IPTV, and a Fixed Mobile solution.

AT&T — Broadband provider

BendBroadband — Broadband provider

BeSafe — BeSafe Technologies uses broadband to provide real time information to emergency first responders, including contact information, aerial photos, video feeds and building plans. It’s interested in advocating emergency preparedness issues that leverage broadband infrastructure as part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

BigBand Networks, Inc. — BigBand Networks provides infrastructure and support for moving, managing, and monetizing video.

BTECH Inc. — A backup battery provider which oddly finds the need to involve itself in a variety of astroturf groups.  In addition to signing a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality, BTECH also belongs to “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us.

Cablevision Systems Corporation — Broadband provider

CBM of America, Inc. — A network solutions provider for IP networks, CBM is also a member of astroturf group “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

CenturyLink — Broadband provider

Charles Industries, Ltd. — Provides cable wiring protection and products that help expand DSL service to hard to reach areas. What wasn’t hard to find was their membership in the astroturf group TV4Us.  They also signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Child Safety Task Force — Part of the Robert K. Johnson astroturf machine, including Consumers for Cable Competitive Choice and Consumers Voice. Only involvement in telecommunications comes from “child safety on the Internet” issue.

Cisco — An equipment manufacturer that has ties to several astroturf and public policy groups, including Arts+Labs and is a major advocate of the alarmist “The Internet is full/exaflood/zettabyte era” rhetoric providers use to justify Internet Overcharging schemes, while Cisco’s self-interest is served by selling the equipment to manage the ‘data tsunami.’  They also signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

CoAdna Photonics, Inc. — Sells a variety of products to maintain optical networks, and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Comcast — Broadband provider

CommScope, Inc. — Designs and produces cables for cable broadband and other providers.

Condux International, Inc. — Condux is a manufacturer of aerial and underground cable installation equipment and tools. Also belongs to TV4Us and “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Consumers First — A group that receives corporate contributions from both AT&T and Verizon, Consumers First often turns up belonging to other astroturf groups, including Robert K. Johnson’s now-defunct Consumers for Cable Choice.

Corning Incorporated — A manufacturer of fiber optic cable, among other things. Verizon is a very important customer.  Corning helped launch the Fiber to the Home Council, which pals around with astroturfers and doesn’t like Net Neutrality. Corning keeps more distance between itself and direct anti-consumer astroturf campaigns, but still signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Cox Communications — Broadband provider

CTIA The Wireless Association — The trade association for the wireless industry, includes AT&T and Verizon.

DC-Primary Care Association — A group advocating for health care reform, telemedicine, and affordable care in the District of Columbia. Its primary interest in broadband may be to leverage stimulus money for health-care related broadband applications.

Dominican American National Roundtable — A group that claims to represent the interests of Dominican-Americans, they spend a lot of time involving themselves in telecommunications issues like mergers involving Verizon. That could be because the group receives substantial support from both AT&T and Verizon Wireless. On behalf of Verizon in 2008, DANA wrote the Federal Communications Commission with a dubious argument in favor of the Verizon Wireless-Alltel merger, claiming “Verizon Wireless also has the scale and scope to invest in network facilities in […] areas in which there is a dense Dominican population.” They fell all over themselves praising Verizon: “Verizon Wireless is well known for having one of the largest and most reliable national wireless networks in the country, so Alltel’s customers will benefit from its size, reach and quality [and] customers will benefit from ever-greater choices – in plans and phones – [and] one of the most advanced broadband networks.”

Enhanced Telecommunications Inc. — Enhanced Telecommunications, Inc. was founded in 1992 to provide software for the converging broadband technologies of television, telephone and internet communications. They are also are believers in converging astroturf campaigns, as a member of “Hands Off the Internet” and a co-signer of a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Fiber to the Home Council — An industry trade group that promotes fiber optics broadband. The FTTH Council was established in July 2001 by Alcatel-Lucent, Corning Incorporated and Optical Solutions. If an issue could lead to more fiber optics deployment, FTTH Council is often involved. Since consumers are often pro-fiber, there are times they do share a common interest in expanding fiber optic broadband. But the Council hates Net Neutrality. Full Frontal Scrutiny also exposed some credibility problems with the Council: “The FTTH Council is comprised of “approximately 800 company member delegates,” most of which represent businesses that provide equipment and/or services related to fiber optic systems. Nonprofit institutions can apply to join the FTTH Council, but their membership must be approved by the Board of Directors. Moreover, nonprofits allowed to join the FTTH Council can not serve on the Board or vote on Council issues.” The group also promotes the “exaflood – Internet is going to get overloaded” scare-mongering, unsurprising since they believe fiber deployment will fix it.

FiberControl — Designs and manufactures fiber based polarization stabilizers, polarization controllers and polarization-state scramblers for fiber optic networks. They will polarize our readers against them as a member of the “Hands Off the Internet” astroturf group and their signature on a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Global Crossing — A telecommunications service provider.  As a consumer who lived under Global Crossing’s ownership of Frontier Communications, I hope BfA made sure the check cleared before sending them membership stickers.

Hispanic Leadership Fund — A conservative Hispanic political group that generally opposes regulation and government involvement in private business. Mario Lopez, group president, spent most of his summer at tea party rallies criticizing Obama Administration policies. Insufficient information available to know where the money comes from, but this group opposes regulation generally, so Net Neutrality is definitely a thumbs-down with them.

Independent Technologies Inc. — Independent Technologies is a communications technology research and development company. They also independently decided to join forces with both “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us astroturfers and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA) — An industry trade group of independent mid-size telephone companies. Their members, which usually provide DSL broadband service, include CenturyLink, Comporium Communications, Consolidated Communications, FairPoint Communications, Frontier Communications, Iowa Telecom, Qwest Communications, TDS Telecom, and Windstream Communications. The group actively opposes Net Neutrality and wants a hands-off policy on telecommunications regulations.

International Association for K-12 Online — iNACOL, The International Association for K-12 Online Learning, is a non-profit organization that facilitates collaboration, advocacy, and research to enhance quality K-12 online teaching and learning.

Intertribal Agriculture Council — IAC was founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development and use of Native American agricultural resources for the betterment of Native Americans. Oddly, one of the priorities for IAC in 2008 was being a full-throated supporter of the Sirius-XM Radio merger. It also joined forces with the Alliance for Aviation Across America (along with other BfA members including the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association) to oppose a proposal to shift some of airline carriers’ federal tax burden to small-jet operators.

Itaas Inc. — Founded in 1999, itaas is a privately held, Atlanta-based company with experience in digital cable television technology.


"This may be an attempt to trick you." -- The error message received when visiting the apparently defunct jewishenergyproject.org website

Jewish Energy Project — Appears to be defunct or inoperative. Website jewishenergyproject.org launches a prompt to log onto group founder Brian H. Davis’ Gmail account! Davis is an environmental lawyer whose firm uses a “team approach [to] support “harmonizing of business and environment.”

Latinos in Information Science & Technology Association — LISTA claims it is a national organization of Latino professionals and role models from the information science, telecommunications, and technology industry. “By working together and showcasing the talented Latinos in these sectors, the community as a whole could reach higher goals in order to conquer the digital divide. Today, LISTA remains committed to excellence and providing a wide spectrum of resources to members, corporate sponsors, businesses, educational institutions and the community.” Somehow, it accomplishes that by advocating the merger of Sirius and XM Radio and attacking Google’s “search monopoly.” LISTA has a corporate sponsorship program that, among other things, “link LISTA strategic initiatives to the objectives of the corporation.” Now we’re getting somewhere. LISTA’s membership in BfA may strategically link the objectives of these sponsors: AT&T, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Microsoft, Comcast, Verizon, and RCN Communications.

Livestock Marketing Association — The Livestock Marketing Association is committed to the support and protection of the local livestock auction markets.  Their website says, “auctions are a vital part of the livestock industry, serving producers and assuring a fair, competitive price through the auction method of selling.” The best way to assure that is to join Broadband for America?  Perhaps the livestock have Facebook pages.

LookBothWays – From their website: “LOOKBOTHWAYS, Inc., founded by internationally recognized online safety expert Linda Criddle, provides free consumer education in online safety through their Web site, ilookbothways.com. We are currently building K-12 online safety curriculum which will be available to everybody at no charge, and teach a college course in Internet Safety for Educators through two US universities. LOOKBOTHWAYS also has a software division developing technology solutions for online safety. In addition we consult and train companies, governments, and law enforcement agencies worldwide and are available for speaking engagements on a wide variety of safety topics. Criddle spent 13 years at Microsoft where she was a pioneer in online safety.”   Criddle also heads the “Safe Internet Alliance” which is absolutely infested with astroturf groups and providers, many of them also AfB members: AT&T, US Internet Industry Association, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, RetireSafe, Stop Child Predators, Verizon, MANA (A National Latina Organization), and Consumers First. Her organization’s name is lent out to Saferdates, which charges a fee to do background and fingerprint checks on you to “verify” your identity to people who might want to date you.  Perhaps Criddle should perform a background check on BfA to know who she’s hanging around with.

MANA (A National Latina Organization) — Formerly the Mexican American National Association, MANA today claims to empower Latina women through leadership development, community service, and advocacy. They are also empowered by support from AT&T and Verizon. MANA’s National Corporate Partnership Council will put your company logo on their home page for a $50,000 contribution (AT&T is the first logo shown). MANA’s Advisory Council has Emilio Gonzalez, Verizon’s director of public policy and strategic alliances on it. Gonzalez also serves on the boards of two other BfA members:  the United States Distance Learning Association and the US Mexico Chamber of Commerce.  Even more impressive, from as astroturfing perspective, is their Vice-Chair, Bridget Gonzales, who used to be “Assistant Vice President for Issue Dynamics, Inc., a public affairs firm in Washington, DC, where she led the firm’s Strategic Alliances Group. “Ms. Gonzales was instrumental in planning and executing public affairs and consumer education campaigns for Fortune 500 clients such as Verizon Communications, BellSouth, SBC Communications, Corning, Novartis, and others. This included preparation of press releases, op-eds, speeches and consumer education materials as well as coordination of issue briefings, congressional advocacy activities, workshops and media relations. Critical to her success was the effective working relationships she established with high profile national organizations such as League of United Latin American Citizens, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, National Grange, Gray Panthers and others.”

Motorola — An equipment manufacturer, among its biggest customers are AT&T, T Mobile, and Verizon.  They signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

MRV Communications, Inc. — MRV Communications is a supplier of communications equipment and services to service providers. “Today’s telecommunication networks are evolving to support growing network traffic due to the demand for high-bandwidth applications such as IPTV, streaming video, peer-to-peer networking, and content-rich websites. Service providers are attempting to differentiate their offerings from their competitors and strive to provide many new capabilities. The growth in these applications is driving the need for additional bandwidth capacity in the Internet infrastructure.” They don’t differentiate themselves much in their membership in the usual astroturf groups “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us. They also co-signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

National Association of Manufacturers — This trade association, which counts AT&T and Verizon among its members has this policy towards telecommunications: “Fostering an environment where manufacturers and consumers alike can obtain the services and content they want, when they want it and regardless of medium, is of primary concern. To achieve this goal, policymakers should remove barriers to entry that prevent broadband providers from offering high-speed information services to homes and businesses, balance the need for regulations against the potential to dampen private industry’s incentive to invest in broadband technology, encourage federal and state regulators to monitor the rollout of broadband services, and adopt a federal framework and to the extent necessary, lightly regulate only to ensure fair, technology-neutral competition for all providers.” They are members of both “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us.

National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals — Appears defunct. The last time the nabtp.org website was updated and captured by Archive.org was on May 13, 2008. Their telephone number has been disconnected. Among their last features was a promotion for a speech by Larry Irving, who himself works for an astroturf group – the Internet Innovation Alliance. Some history on this group and others like it, was written by the National Community NETwork of AT&T.

National Black Chamber of Commerce — This group’s stated purpose: “To economically empower and sustain African American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activity within the United States and via interaction with the Black Diaspora.” Their website hides their membership list, stating: “The National Black Chamber of Commerce does not distribute information about our members to protect their privacy.” Uh huh. We can take a wild guess however, based on their extended reach into the astroturf diaspora with memberships in both “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us. Back in December 2007 before the corporate sponsors were removed from the website for ‘their privacy,’ the group noted it had AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon among its members. Here they were towing the telecom industry line in a press release back in May 2007.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association — Everyone’s favorite super-sized trade association and lobbyist for big cable.

National Caucus and Center on Black Aged — “Throughout its 39 years history, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc. (NCBA) has worked to eliminate obstacles to fairness and equal access for one of the most underserved and vulnerable groups in our society – low-income black and minority senior citizens. NCBA’s programs have focused on three of the most critical needs: housing, employment and health promotion/disease prevention.” Actually, four needs — the fourth suddenly being broadband. This group has several telecommunications industry connections, as explored in part one of this report.

National Disease Cluster Alliance — A real mystery why this group belongs to BfA. This group is dedicated to identifying and responding to emerging disease cluster/anomalies. Founding member Floyd Sands passed away in May after a lengthy battle with cancer. In August, the group advertised for a new executive director and is engaged in fundraising. The stated purpose of the organization is noble, but their sudden interest in broadband issues as part of an astroturf effort is concerning.

National Grange — “The National Grange is the nation’s oldest national agricultural organization, with grassroots units established in 3,600 local communities in 37 states. Its 300,000 members provide service to agriculture and rural areas on a wide variety of issues, including economic development, education, family endeavors, and legislation designed to assure a strong and viable Rural America.” The organization claims to be particularly interested in rural telecommunications issues.  Coincidentally, it often finds itself getting involved in telecommunications issues that directly impact or involve Verizon. That’s ironic, considering Verizon is abandoning many rural communities altogether and selling them off to Frontier Communications. Over the years, the National Grange has thrown its view in on to Verizon vs. the RIAA, a request for Congress to support industry friendly legislation, a merger between Verizon and NorthPoint Communications, and universal service fund issues that brought them into a coalition with … the corn growers LawMedia Group loves to work with: The Keep USF Fair Coalition was formed in April 2004. Current members include Alliance for Public Technology, Alliance For Retired Americans, American Association Of People With Disabilities, American Corn Growers Association, American Council of the Blind, California Alliance of Retired Americans, Consumer Action, Deafness Research Foundation, Gray Panthers, Latino Issues Forum, League Of United Latin American Citizens, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, National Association Of The Deaf, National Consumers League, National Grange, National Hispanic Council on Aging, National Native American Chamber of Commerce, The Seniors Coalition, Utility Consumer Action Network, Virginia Citizen’s Consumer Council and World Institute On Disability. DSL Prime helps define the friendly circle.

National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc. — NPRC’s mission is to systematically strengthen and enhance the social, political, and economic well-being of Puerto Ricans throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico with a special focus on the most vulnerable. AT&T is a major sponsor of the group. The organization signed a letter in 2006 concerning itself with, of all things, cable television set-top box integration. It took the vulnerable industry position. It supported the Sprint Nextel merger in 2005 with another letter.

NDS Limited — NDS Group Ltd is a private company owned by the Permira Funds and News Corporation. It creates technologies that allow pay-TV operators to generate revenues by securely delivering digital content to TVs, set-top boxes (STBs), digital video recorders (DVRs), PCs, portable media players (PMPs), removable media, and other mobile devices.

Net Literacy — This company’s mission “is to increase computer access by creating public computer labs, teach computer and Internet skills, and educate youth and parents about Internet safety.” “Senior Coalition Partners” include Verizon, Bright House Networks, Comcast, and the US Internet Industry Association.  Net Literacy co-released a report with the USIIA advocating AT&T and other provider views about broadband adoption, including government investment in broadband, and potentially supporting industry-sponsored Internet education and child safety efforts.

NSG America, Inc. — “As creator of the SELFOC Lens, Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) manufactures and distributes more gradient-index lenses than anyone else in the world. Developed over 25 years ago, the SELFOC Lens has revolutionized the industries of fiber optic communications.” They signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality, and are also members of “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us.

Occam Networks, Inc — Occam Networks develops and markets the BLC 6000 multi-service access platform (MSAP), an Ethernet and IP-based loop carrier platform that enables our customers to profitably deliver a variety of traditional and packet voice, broadband and IP services from a single, converged all-packet access network.

OFS Fitel, LLC — OFS manufactures and markets fusion splicers, optical fiber, optical cable, fiber to the home (FTTX), connectivity, optical components, and specialty photonics products and optical components. They are also members of “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

On Trac, IncorporatedOn Trac, Inc. is a telecommunications subcontractor that specializes in fiber to the home installations. Municipalities sometimes contract with them to do installations. On Trac is a member of “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

PECO II, Inc. — PECO II designs and manufactures DC power systems and provides engineering and support assistance. They also support and assist “Hands Off the Internet” as a member and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

People & Technology — Insufficient information to identify which group or company this represents.

Preformed Line Products, Inc. — Preformed Line Products (PLP) is a worldwide designer, manufacturer and supplier of cable anchoring and control hardware and systems, fiber optic and copper splice closures, and high-speed cross-connect devices.  They signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Prysmian Communications Cables and Systems USA, LLC — A player in the industry of high-technology cables and systems for energy and telecommunications. They are members of both “Hands Off the Internet” and TV4Us and also signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Quanta Services, Inc — Quanta Services is a provider of specialized contracting services, delivering end-to-end network solutions for the electric power, telecommunications, broadband cable and gas pipeline industries.  They signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Qwest — Broadband provider

RetireSafe — “RetireSafe is a grassroots advocacy and educational organization dedicated to preserving the options and protecting the benefits of America’s seniors. RetireSafe believes in a government that keeps its promises, protects our nation, and maintains the safety of its citizens. We believe in free markets, lower taxes, limited regulations, and the virtues of personal freedom and personal responsibility that provides true retirement security for all.” The American Prospect called the group “strange” because it doesn’t identify up front who runs it or pays the bills: “Many of these other groups exist as little more than letterheads and Web sites.”  There are suspicions RetireSafe is run by DCI Group, a Washington DC lobbying firm, on behalf of one of its corporate clients. Oddly, RetireSafe has usually been the domain of big pharmaceutical companies. What they are doing on Americans for Broadband’s member list is a mystery. DCI’s other clients have included AT&T and Microsoft, although there is no certain evidence who is behind the new interest in broadband.

Seachange International — SeaChange International is a provider of software applications, services and integrated solutions for the management and monetization of Video on Demand (VOD), digital advertising, and content acquisition.

Sheyenne Dakota, Inc. — Custom Cable Harness Manufacturing. They also signed a letter by Netcompetition opposing Net Neutrality.

Silver Star Communications — Broadband provider

Sjoberg’s, Inc — Broadband provider

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council — The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) works to educate elected officials, policy makers, business leaders and the public to advance initiatives that enhance the environment for entrepreneurship, business start-up and growth. Member of TV4Us, which TV Technology described: “The roster of Coalition members includes The National Taxpayers Union, the Latino Coalition, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the Women’s Presidents Organization, the Construction Industry Foundation, the Citizenship Foundation–and, oh yes, a dozen telecom manufacturers, the National Association of Manufacturers and AT&T. You can probably guess correctly whose money actually paid for the coalition’s ads.”

SNC Manufacturing Company, Inc. — SNC is a manufacturer and worldwide marketer of transformers, coils, high frequency magnetics and value-added assemblies.  They are a TV4Us member, and although their logo has changed, it appears they also signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Stop Child Predators — If your cat was a member of the Democratic Party, it would hiss the moment the people behind this group entered the room. Cary Katz, Chairman and President – Founder/CEO College Loan Corporation is a major Republican donor. Board member Viet Dinh was on the Board of Directors of Murdoch’s News Corporation, although he’s better known for his key role in producing the USA Patriot Act. One blogger investigating the group complained: “The Stop Child Predators Partnership doesn’t actually seem to do anything.” The group’s focus seems to be on developing stronger legislation for child predator crime prosecutions and sentencing, with suggested legislation for online safety as well. Insufficient information to tell if there is any telecommunications industry money in the group.

Sumitomo Electric Lightwave — A manufacturer of optical fiber and optical cable, cable assemblies, fiber management systems, etc. Member of “Hands Off the Internet,” they also signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Sunrise Telecom Inc — Sunrise develops test and measurement solutions for telecom, cable, and wireless networks that ensure network performance, speed deployment, and reduce the cost of network operations. Sunrise is a member of “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

SureWest Communications — Broadband provider

Suttle Apparatus Corporation — Suttle is a manufacturer of communication connectivity products to major service providers and installers.  Suttle was not subtle about their willingness to advocate against consumer interests when they signed a letter by Netcompetition.org opposing Net Neutrality.

Telecommunications Industry Association — “The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is the leading trade association representing the global information and communications technology (ICT) industries through standards development, government affairs, business opportunities, market intelligence, certification and world-wide environmental regulatory compliance. With support from its 600 members, TIA enhances the business environment for companies involved in telecommunications, broadband, mobile wireless, information technology, networks, cable, satellite, unified communications, emergency communications and the greening of technology.” TIA members are extensive within the broadband industry. Filed comments with the FCC objecting to Net Neutrality in 2008.

Telework Coalition — The Telework Coalition brings together a diverse array of organizations, companies, and individuals with the common interest of promoting awareness and adoption of existing and emerging Telework and Telecommuting applications including telemedicine and distance learning, as well as addressing access to broadband services that may be needed to support these applications.

The Latino Coalition — TLC’s agenda is to develop initiatives and partnerships that will foster economic equivalency and enhance overall business, economic and social development of Latinos. The bottom of the website indicates “TLC Website presented by AT&T.” Both AT&T and Verizon are corporate partners of The Latino Coalition, which also belongs to astroturf group TV4Us. The Latino Coalition likes to involve itself in a lot of cable and broadcasting industry business. More details on this group can be found in part one.

Time Warner Cable — Broadband provider

United States Distance Learning Association — Serves the distance learning community by providing advocacy, information, networking and opportunity. Board member Raymond E. Hartfield works for AT&T. Emilio X. Gonzalez, director of public policy and strategic alliances at Verizon sits on their Advisory Board. He also sits on the board of MANA and the US Mexico Chamber of Commerce, both BfA members. Verizon is a 21st Century Benefactor of USDLA, which could explain why USDLA went out of its way to submit positive comments about the merger proposal between Verizon and NorthPoint Communications. More recently, in June, USDLA submitted comments to the FCC calling for a deregulatory approach to a national broadband plan, and went out of its way to oppose Net Neutrality.

United States Telecom Association — The trade association of broadband service providers, the organization doesn’t hide its opposition to Internet-related regulation. “Today’s calls for greater government intervention are to “fix” a problem that simply does not exist as far as today’s consumer of broadband services is concerned. This unnecessary intervention would slow broadband deployment and the arrival of a wide variety of pro-consumer advances.” They have a history of running astroturf campaigns, such as ‘The Future… Faster‘ which claimed to be a “coalition” that represents both “industry leaders” and “individual Americans.” If they put they period after ‘leaders,’ they would have been correct. Consumers were nowhere to be found. USTA has a history with Issue Dynamics, a DC lobbying firm and astroturf campaign creator.

US Cable Corporation — Broadband provider

US Cattlemen’s Association — The United States Cattlemen’s Association is a membership organization working for the grassroots cattle producer. Another major oddity in the BfA membership, the USCA’s focus on cattle seems to be completely non germane to broadband issues. Jon Wooster, president, wrote a letter to the FCC urging them to approve the merger between Verizon and Alltel: “We believe the merger between Verizon Wireless and Alltel will boost competition in the cell phone industry while bringing broadband and its innovations to all Americans – whether they live in downtown or on the farm. As an established wireless carrier, Verizon Wireless has the breadth and depth to make the significant investment in rural infrastructure that is so desperately needed. It has already poured billions into a new portion of the wireless spectrum just to deliver new high-speed (broadband) service to more Americans.” The group also signed their name to a Connected Nation letter to Congress saying, in part: “We believe Congress should adopt legislation this year that provides federal government support for state initiatives using public-private partnerships to identify gaps in broadband coverage and to develop both the supply of and demand for broadband in those areas.” The letter was also signed by AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and a whole host of astroturf groups and industry-affiliated organizations.

US Chamber of Commerce — Their slogan is “fighting for your business.” The nation’s largest industry trade association, they are always, by definition on business’ side.

US Internet Industry Association — The US Internet Industry Association (USIIA) is the North American trade association for Internet commerce, content and connectivity. Most USIIA members are broadband service providers. Works with Issue Dynamics, a Washington, DC public relations firm that engages in astroturf campaigns.

US Mexico Chamber of Commerce — The organization’s mission is to promote business between the United States and Mexico. How that relates to Americans for Broadband is an open question, although Emilio Gonzalez, Director of Public Policy & Strategic Alliances at Verizon who serves on the Board of Directors of this group might provide a possible answer. Gonzalez also serves on the boards of two other BfA members: MANA and the United States Distance Learning Association. Verizon’s logo also appears on the group’s home page. They are one of four listed sponsors.

Verizon — Broadband provider

Vermeer Manufacturing Company — Farm machinery and trenchless and trenching equipment from a construction equipment manufacturer. Also harvested was the fact Vermeer belongs to “Hands Off the Internet” and signed a letter by Netcompetition opposing Net Neutrality.

Windstream Corporation — Broadband provider

Special Report — Astroturf Overload – Broadband for America = One Giant Industry Front Group

"We're going to need another roll."

"We're going to need another roll."

Astroturf: One of the underhanded tactics increasingly being used by telecom companies is “Astroturf lobbying” – creating front groups that try to mimic true grassroots, but that are all about corporate money, not citizen power. Astroturf lobbying is hardly a new approach. Senator Lloyd Bentsen is credited with coining the term in the 1980s to describe corporations’ big-money efforts to put fake grassroots pressure on Congress. Astroturf campaigns generally claim to represent huge numbers of citizens, but in reality their public support is minimal or nonexistent. — Common Cause’s Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing Part II: More Telecom Industry Front Groups and Astroturf.”

The telecommunications industry has gone all out with a new super-sized front group claiming to “work to bring the Internet to everyone.”  The so-called Broadband for America (BfA) Coalition launched a new website, Broadband for America, which is completely infested with industry players and groups they call “independent consumer advocacy groups,” but are in reality mostly astroturfers themselves.  More than 100 corporate providers and special interest front groups make up the BfA, which they brazenly claim “represent the hundreds of millions of Americans who are literally connected through broadband.”

Of course, what is missing from this mess are the hundreds of millions of actual American consumers.  They aren’t on the list.  Also missing after checking more than 100 BfA member websites is any press push to notify their members they are now a part of this group.  In fact, none of the so-called public interest websites seemed at all interested in promoting their new found friends.

The BfA wants you to think the industry party list is a strength, not a weakness:

The range of members of BfA is evidence of the importance which is being placed on the issues of broadband availability and broadband adoption. It is also evidence of BfA’s commitment to being a full participant on behalf of all stakeholders to provide a central clearinghouse for the latest thinking, the most advanced assessments, and the widest variety of views and opinions on the future of broadband in America.

That’s a word salad that can be condensed down considerably to: The Mother of All Astroturf Front Groups.

A comprehensive guide to the members of the BfA can be found below.  It was developed from extensive research into the background and financing of many of these groups, as well as their membership in classic astroturf groups that are run against consumer interests.

Actiontec Electronics, Inc.
ADC Telecommunications, Inc.
Advanced Digital Broadcast
American Agri-Women
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Council on Renewable Energy
Americans for Technology Leadership
BigBand Networks, Inc.
Cablevision Systems Corporation
CBM of America, Inc.
Charles Industries, Ltd.
Child Safety Task Force
CoAdna Photonics, Inc.
CommScope, Inc.
Condux International, Inc.
Consumers First
Corning Incorporated
Cox Communications
CTIA The Wireless Association
DC-Primary Care Association
Dominican American National Roundtable
Enhanced Telecommunications Inc
Fiber to the Home Council
Global Crossing
Hispanic Leadership Fund
Independent Technologies Inc.
Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA)
International Association for K-12 Online
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Itaas Inc.
Jewish Energy Project
Latinos in Information Science & Technology Association
Livestock Marketing Association
MANA (A National Latina Organization)
MRV Communications, Inc.
National Association of Manufacturers
National Association of Black Telecommunications Professionals
National Black Chamber of Commerce
National Cable & Telecommunications Association
National Caucus and Center on Black Aged
National Disease Cluster Alliance
National Grange
National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc.
NDS Limited
Net Literacy
NSG America, Inc.
Occam Networks, Inc
OFS Fitel, LLC
On Trac, Incorporated
People & Technology
Preformed Line Products, Inc.
Prysmian Communications Cables and Systems USA, LLC
Quanta Services, Inc
Seachange International
Sheyenne Dakota, Inc.
Silver Star Communications
Sjoberg’s, Inc
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
SNC Manufacturing Company, Inc.
Stop Child Predators
Sumitomo Electric Lightwave
Sunrise Telecom Inc
SureWest Communications
Suttle Apparatus Corporation
Telecommunications Industry Association
Telework Coalition
The Latino Coalition
Time Warner Cable
United States Distance Learning Association
United States Telecom Association
US Cable Corporation
US Cattlemen’s Association
US Chamber of Commerce
US Internet Industry Association
US Mexico Chamber of Commerce
Vermeer Manufacturing Company
Windstream Corporation

When The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is on your member list, along with giant providers like AT&T and Verizon, you know we’re far, far away from defining this group as “pro-consumer.”

Over the last week pouring across websites and independent documentation, I encountered a few particularly brazen astroturf groups and the individuals that run them whose names kept coming up time and time again.

One of the more interesting groups that caught my eye was the Child Safety Task Force.  What could be wrong with a group like that?  Who could possibly ever find fault with a group that sounds like they are dedicated to unyielding protection of our children.

But when one visits their website, some cautionary lights begin to flash when you read their Mission Statement (italics mine):

“The Child Safety Task Force believes that legislation and regulatory decisions concerning children’s safety measures should be grounded in principles of good-governance and sound science.”

Perhaps I have been doing this too long, but the portions in italics sound suspicious.  A child safety group whose primary task is involvement in public policy.  Uh oh.  That smells like lobbyist.  The enigmatic “good-governance and sound science” sounds like code words for pro-industry protections from consumer groups.

Indeed, group president Robert K. Johnson is the Zelig of astroturfers.  He’s everywhere.  He was president of the now-defunct Consumers for Cable Choice, a front group for AT&T and other providers advocating for telco TV and strident opposition to Net Neutrality.  Amusingly, Johnson’s group broadened its focus by dropping the word “cable” from its title and renaming themselves Consumers for Competitive Choice (C4CC).  New name, same old notorious astroturfing.

Johnson’s idea of “child safety” is to poo-pooh the risk of phthalates in children’s toys.  I haven’t found too many consumer groups adopting that kind of pro-plastics industry position.  Johnson testified under the C4CC moniker before the House of Delegates, Maryland General Assembly with this in his opening statement:

“A case in point is the effort by some states to include phthalates in legislation limiting the amount of lead and other proven carcinogens in children’s’ toys. The effort is misplaced and ultimately detrimental to consumers.”

Apparently not satisfied that C4CC was pro-child safety-sounding enough, Johnson’s Child Safety Task Force & C4CC have linked to one another as resources without clearly disclosing their common ties.

Johnson also founded Consumers’ Voice, which Verizon trashed in 2002: “Consumers’ Voice . . . should really be named `AT&T’s Voice.’ At a recent National Conference of State Legislatures meeting, a representative from this group admitted that it is entirely supported by AT&T. Moreover, Consumers’ Voice has no state chapters or affiliates. Johnson actually is an AT&T hired gun.” – William R. Roberts, president, Verizon Maryland, Inc., (Cumberland Times-News, August 22, 2002.) Another BfA member, Consumers First (California), could easily be confused with the former, but no matter, it receives funding from AT&T (and Verizon) too, and belonged to Johnson’s now defunct Consumers for Cable Competition.

Another astroturfer paradise comes courtesy of the LawMedia Group (LMG), a secretive Washington DC public affairs firm. The firm’s website says it “unites the worlds of law, communications, strategic counseling and crisis management into seamless campaigns for Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, start-ups and non-profits.”  Ads for LMG describe its services as including “government relations” (lobbying), “grassroots lobbying,” “issue/initiative/petition management,” “media production” and “opposition research.”

LMG has a nasty habit of ghostwriting op-ed pieces on behalf of third parties, occasionally without their knowledge, and send them in for publication as supposedly written by those individuals.  Last summer, LMG submitted a column it wrote on behalf of Mel King, a Boston-area community organizer and staunch Net Neutrality advocate that turned out to oppose Net Neutrality.  King admitted that LMG was involved and refused to say whether “he was paid for the use of his name,” reported CNET News.

LMG reportedly has two major clients of interest to our readers – Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator and Microsoft.  The former is looking for cable and broadband industry-friendly advocacy (opposition to Net Neutrality, favoring government “hands off” policies governing cable operators and broadband) and the latter has particularly been interested in Google bashing, especially surrounding a Yahoo-Google advertising deal.

One of LMG’s specialties is reportedly to co-opt groups that most would assume would have no direct interest in the issues its clients hire the PR firm to promote.  Yet suddenly these non-aligned groups  spring forth with amazingly detailed, uniform advocacy for LMG’s clients’ positions in the media, to members of Congress, and even in submitted comments to regulatory agencies.

Would you find it curious that in 2008 The American Corn Growers Association would suddenly find the need to rush a letter to the Justice Department urging them to launch an investigation into Google’s ‘search monopoly?’  Apparently the harvest was finished and they had free time on their hands.  But they only started the trend, because similar letters on the letterheads of the League of Rural Voters and the Latinos in Information Science & Technology Association also followed.  The latter just happens to also turn up as a member of the BfA.

That’s no coincidence.  BfA member Intertribal Agriculture Council, which is supposed to advocate for the wise stewardship of Native-American lands for the benefit of its people, suddenly decided to throw its two cents into last year’s Sirius-XM Radio merger debate, publicly endorsing the deal and urging the FCC to approve it. That was also an action item on the LMG priority list, according to Sourcewatch. They were joined by several other groups that common sense would suggest wouldn’t spend five minutes pondering this transaction.  Among them include (again) the League of Rural Voters and the Latinos in Information Science & Technology Association.  Some other BfA members also chimed in: the National Black Chamber of Commerce, The Latino Coalition, and the American Association of People With Disabilities.

The Latino Coalition left a lot of heads scratching in 2007 when it advocated against bans on exclusive cable providers in rental properties.  Consumers moved into apartment buildings and found they had to take whatever the landlord made available — no satellite TV or competing providers allowed.  Consumer groups howled demanding these exclusive agreements be banished to give consumers choices for subscription television.  The Latino Coalition told the Los Angeles Times that was a bad idea, and anti-consumer.

The Latino Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, warned the FCC that prohibiting exclusive contracts could leave minority and low-income residents with higher bills or no service at all.

“The advantages of these exclusive contracts are important selling points for apartment buildings in urban neighborhoods where residents wouldn’t otherwise have the ability to negotiate the best price for cable TV or broadband services,” Latino Coalition President Robert G. de Posada wrote to the FCC.

It comes as no surprise de Posada also opposed Net Neutrality.  He criticized the concept passionately, telling EbonyJet magazine in 2007 it represented “over regulation of the Internet.”  Net Neutrality would, according to de Posada, “stifle rather than facilitate entrepreneurism.”

Among the Coalition’s corporate partners: AT&T and Verizon.  The former’s logo appears at the bottom corner of the The Latino Coalition home page.

Apparently astroturf coordinators like to use some of the same groups for different issues.  This past May, the Intertribal Agricultural Council had a new-found common cause with, of all things, small-jet operators opposed to a proposal to shift some of the airline carriers’ federal tax burden onto small jet aviators.  Jets fly over farmland, and some might even cross over reservations, so I guess that’s a legitimate priority item for a Native American group like IAC, right?

The IAC joined forces with The Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA), a group run by LMG according to Sourcewatch.  But they were not alone.  Two more BfA members coincidentally also turn up as improbable members of the AAAA: the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.

Astroturf Warehouse Club: We lie in bulk and pass the BS on to you!

Astroturf Warehouse Club: We lie in bulk and pass the BS on to you!

The practice of bringing non-aligned groups into public policy debates, particularly those involving minorities, can be a public relations miracle worker, especially for lobbying projects that don’t exactly look consumer friendly.  Often, minority public interest group involvement is highlighted by lobbyists appealing to public officials who can make or break a merger deal or vote up or down on regulatory matters.  If Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans, and the disabled are against Net Neutrality or for Internet Overcharging schemes, maybe there is something elected officials are missing.

In reality, all they frequently miss is the public relations lobbying machine in Washington that runs the show.  Even worse is when legitimate consumer voices are crowded out because all of the chairs set out for real consumers are occupied by astroturf groups pretending to represent consumer interests.

One group, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, was another oddity in the Broadband for America member roster, until one started taking a closer look at who serves on the group’s Board of Directors.  The connection to Verizon was immediately obvious.  B. Keith Fulton, a Board member, is also President of Verizon West Virginia.  Fulton joined Verizon in 2004 as vice president of strategic alliances and corporate responsibility, where he led a Washington, D.C.-based team that worked with more than 100 national organizations on communications related public policy issues.

But the connections with big telecom didn’t stop there.  Jarvis C. Stewart, chairman, is also Managing Partner at Stewart Partners LLC, a Washington, DC Public Relations firm.  A 2006 press release admits a further connection: “Stewart Partners currently manages the federal legislative and public affairs agendas of global industry titans such as […] Verizon.”

Muckety, which graphically illustrates public/private connections shows yet more involvement, this time with William Clyburn, Jr., who also serves on the group’s Board. It maps links between Clyburn and the U.S. Telecom Association and AT&T through Clyburn Consulting.

Clyburn Consulting’s website states:

“At Clyburn Consulting, we guide telecommunications stakeholders through the federal legislative process.  We provide strategic analyses of the technical aspects as well as the political implications of telecommunications policy debates.  The impending updates to our telecommunications laws will have a major impact for years to come on how we process voice, video, and data.  Clyburn Consulting is at the forefront of shaping the future of telecommunications. Clyburn Consulting has been instrumental in persuading Members of Congress to support major legislation for a Fortune 500 telecommunications firm (guess who? –PD).  William Clyburn is integrally involved in garnering support by not only providing access to Congressional offices for the client, but also by substantively engaging senior staff on the technical issues.”

On June 8, 2009, the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged wrote the FCC about the national broadband strategy.  Without disclosing any connections to the telecommunications industry, the group advocated:

Unfortunately too many seniors are not aware of these critical, and often life-saving, benefits. In order for more seniors to see the importance of having broadband, barriers must remain low for adoption. Only 15% of seniors cite price as the reason why they have not brought broadband into their homes. Currently, private sector network providers are investing billions of dollars to build out and maintain broadband infrastructure. This investment has enabled affordable prices. If the FCC’s broadband plan does not maintain incentives for the private sector to continue to invest, consumers will see fewer options and possibly higher prices.

We hope that the FCC will provide for continued investment on the part of private sector participants while working to bring broadband to every household in the country. Our nation’s African American seniors have so much to gain from broadband and they deserve to experience its benefits.

When some of these groups testify in hearings or submit written comments “representing consumer interests” when they are in fact acting like sock puppets backed with industry money, too many legislators may be persuaded to support an industry position thinking it’s what consumers really want.

Therefore, it’s important to provide additional disclosure about the groups, companies, and organizations that attempt to claim to speak on your behalf, the consumer broadband user.

This comprehensive breakdown of the members of BfA is by no means absolutely complete.  It is based on a week’s worth of research into the groups and their ties.  As much as possible, links are provided to back up assertions made.  Some groups may have discontinued their support of individual astroturf campaigns that have since expired, but considering the fact most of them are coming back for a repeat performance, past is prologue.

Feel free to build on this work in our Comment section.  We’ll use additional information as part of an effort to construct a resource database for consumers and others at risk of being hoodwinked by the astroturf bonanza that is Broadband for America.  Don’t bother exposing them on their own site’s community forum; it has some seriously draconian rules for user participation:

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Be sure to check out our complete rundown on the members of Broadband for America.  It’s in part two of this Astroturf Special!

“The Verizon FiOS of Hong Kong”: Fiber to the Home 100Mbps Service $35/Month

Phillip Dampier September 27, 2009 Broadband Speed, Competition, Recent Headlines, Video 3 Comments
HK Broadband offers 100% Fiber Optic service to residents of Hong Kong

HK Broadband offers 100% Fiber Optic service to residents of Hong Kong

Hong Kong remains bullish on broadband.  Despite the economic downturn, City Telecom continues to invest millions in constructing one of Hong Kong’s largest fiber optic broadband networks, providing fiber to the home connections to residents. City Telecom’s HK Broadband service relies on an all-fiber optic network, and has been dubbed “the Verizon FiOS of Hong Kong” for its dramatically faster broadband speeds.

Hongkongers have had several choices for broadband service over the years, most offering traditional DSL service throughout the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong is a territory of the People’s Republic of China). Priced around $32 a month, the most popular service choice offers residents 6Mbps downstream speeds and 0.6Mbps upstream. Some modern residential multi-dwelling units have a more advanced from of DSL service offering up to 18Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.

HK Broadband represents a major competitive threat for traditional DSL service in Hong Kong, because the fiber optic network provides customers with faster speeds ranging from 25Mbps-1000Mbps.  The company also offers a bundle including broadband, a Voice Over IP telephone service, and IPTV (cable television) service with 80+ channels. HK Broadband offers symmetrical speeds on their network, which means your upload speed is as fast as your download speed. The company has pummeled its telephone network-reliant competitors with humorous ads that call out DSL’s slower speeds, particularly for uploads.


p style=”text-align: center;”>[flv width=”450″ height=”360″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/HKBN Ad – Ants.flv[/flv]
HK Broadband “Ants” Advertisement: Ten Kung-Fu-Fighting-Ants, representing the downstream speed of a traditional DSL broadband connection, are shown ganging up on a single helpless ant, who represents the weaker upstream speed, demonstrating how traditional DSL services typically offer upload bandwidth that is only a 10th of the download speed.

HK Broadband offers 100Mbps service for $35 per month, just a few dollars more than DSL. But there is an interesting catch. HK Broadband, like other providers in Hong Kong, cope with inadequate international broadband connections. Instead of engaging in Internet Overcharging schemes like usage caps, such as those found in Australia and New Zealand, the company has instead capped the speed for websites located abroad at 20Mbps for both uploads and downloads. The 100Mbps speed is reserved for domestic websites. Some subscribers note they couldn’t get speeds much faster than that when accessing overseas sites regardless of the cap, so it has not presented a major problem. As connectivity improves, so should the speeds, according to company officials.

The company also has a unique residential service guarantee — they promise that you will receive at least 80% of the speed you subscribe to, or they refund double your money back. Of course, this applies only to connections made to websites within Hong Kong.

When you’ve got it, flaunt it, and HK Broadband’s fiber speeds are the hallmark of their marketing campaigns.

[flv width=”480″ height=”284″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/HKBN 100Mbps Ad.flv[/flv]

HK Broadband “Fat Pipe” Advertisement: Real life characters representing Internet content force themselves into a tiny pipeline, representing DSL, but are later liberated by a wide open fiber optic pipeline they can run through with room to spare.

The investment by City Telecom in their fiber optic broadband network has brought impressive financial results to the company, with customers taking more of their telecommunications business in HK Broadband.  That increases the average revenue per subscriber.  The company has also aggressively increased the level of investment to build out its network, producing an economy of scale that has reduced the costs to wire new subscribers.

Traditional Wall Street investors have often been unimpressed with expensive technology upgrades undertaken by telecommunications companies.  Notably, Verizon Wireless’ FiOS fiber to the home network was pummeled by several investor groups who complained Verizon was spending too much on their fiber network, even though their costs to wire each new customer has dramatically decreased with time.  City Telecom has turned that criticism on its head.  Among many of its competitors, City Telecom is the second most profitable, earning an 11% profit margin.

China Securities has showcased the company, noting it enjoys subscriber growth at levels greater than industry growth, is positioned with technology that assures it of long term stability in revenue and income growth, and despite all of the investments the company has made, retains a strong free cash flow.  Most of all, it has very happy subscribers who enjoy a well regarded broadband service, available at fast speeds and a reasonable price.

The incumbent telephone company’s network of copper wire, supporting lower speed DSL service, is not in the same position.  HK Broadband brought Alexander Graham Bell back to life to chastise the notion that a network more than 100 years old is appropriate for 21st century broadband.

[flv width=”480″ height=”360″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/HK Broadband Bell Ad.flv[/flv]

HK Broadband “Alexander Graham Bell” Advertisement: The inventor of the telephone makes a “special-guest” appearance pointing out the fact that the 100 year old telephone network wasn’t designed for today’s broadband connections. This is set in a traditional Chinese Hell-like environment to imply the hellish experience of surfing the Internet with a slow connection.


p style=”text-align: left;”>HK Broadband has not escaped the attention of its competitors, of course.  PCCW Limited, Hong Kong’s dominant telephone company, has been aggressively marketing its own fiber, DSL, and wireless broadband products, not allowing HK Broadband to win without a fight. PCCW has had to play catch-up with HK Broadband’s aggressive fiber deployment, which focused on residential and business customers from the outset.  PCCW’s fiber network was primarily intended for business customers, and now the company has been rapidly expanding their fiber network to residential customers.  Today, where PCCW fiber is available, customers can choose from 18Mbps, 30Mbps, 100Mbps, or 1000Mbps service plans.  Many PCCW customers will also be aggressively marketed a wireless mobile Netvigator add-on, one of PCCW’s more successful product lines.

[flv width=”294″ height=”240″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/PCCW Fiber Optics Ad.flv[/flv]

PCCW “Fiber Optics” Advertisement: Lampooning HK Broadband’s fiber optic network, PCCW says it had their own extensive fiber optic network laid before HK Broadband came around.  Its tagline, “…the real fiber optics broadband.”

A detailed presentation of HK Broadband and its potential attractiveness to investors was produced by China Securities and features an interview with NiQ Lai, the Chief Financial Officer of City Telecom.

[flv width=”640″ height=”480″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Chinasecurities-City Telecom Presentation September.flv[/flv]

[13 minutes]

BendBroadband Introduces New Faster Speeds, But Offensive Usage Caps the Skunk at the Broadband Party

Phillip Dampier September 23, 2009 BendBroadband, Data Caps, Recent Headlines 26 Comments
BendBroadband introduces a new logo and tagline

BendBroadband introduces a new logo and tagline

BendBroadband, a small provider serving central Oregon, breathlessly announced the imminent launch of new higher speed broadband service for its customers after completing an upgrade to DOCSIS 3.  Along with the launch announcement came a new logo of a sprinting dog the company attaches its new tagline to: “We’re the local dog. We better be good.”

What some BendBroadband customers didn’t realize was that dog comes with a leash.

“The new speeds sound great, right until you read the fine print and discover the awful usage allowances they attach to them,” writes Seth, a Stop the Cap! reader.  “That’s Bend (Over) Broadband.”

BendBroadband plans range from 8Mbps service for $36.95 a month ($46.95 broadband-only), 14Mbps service for $44.95 a month ($54.95 broadband-only), and a forthcoming Gold 25Mbps plan for $54.95 a month ($64.95 broadband-only).  The 14Mbps service represents a speed increase for their current Silver plan.  All of these plans have a 100GB usage allowance, with a $1.50/GB overlimit penalty.


A new Platinum plan will offer 60Mbps service for $89.95 a month ($99.95 broadband-only), yet only incrementally bumps the usage cap up by 50GB, to 150GB per month.

BendBroadband's dog comes with a leash... 100GB Usage Caps

BendBroadband's dog comes with a leash... 100GB Usage Caps

Company officials seemed pleased with themselves.

“Who would of believed ten years ago that we would have these types of speeds available?” said Frank Miller, the company’s Chief Technology Officer. “60Mbps…that’s one fast puppy!”

“That dog (logo) has broadband rabies and needs to be put down,” replies Seth’s wife Angelica, who telecommutes and does most of her work from home.

“Central Oregon can be wowed by the speed, but what good is it if you can’t use it without running into their usage caps and limits,” she asks.

“I’d pay for the premium tiers and get on a waiting list today if they did away with the usage caps.  There is no way I am paying to support a company that sticks usage caps on their customers and makes me waste time doublechecking how much I’ve used this month,” she said.

Seth and Angelica have taken a pass on BendBroadband’s dog show and are sticking with the local phone company’s DSL service until something better comes along.

“The speed isn’t the best, but at least you can use the service and not have to worry about it,” Seth writes.

Shaw Steamrolling Through British Columbia in “Sell To Us Or Die” Strategy

Phillip Dampier September 23, 2009 Canada, Competition, Recent Headlines, Shaw 1 Comment
Delta, part of the Vancouver metro area, British Columbia

Delta, part of the Vancouver metro area, British Columbia

Stop the Cap! reader Rick has been educating me about some of the new-found aggression by Shaw Communications, one of western Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, in expanding its business reach across Canada.  Woe to those who get in the way.

Novus Entertainment is already familiar with this story.  As Stop the Cap! reported previously, Shaw launched fire sale pricing on its cable, broadband, and telephone services ($9.95 a month for each) and target marketed those limited special offers in and around buildings wired for Novus service.  Novus protested to the BC courts, claiming Shaw was engaged in predatory pricing behavior.

A few days ago, an Ontario court judge dismissed a suit brought by Rogers Communications against Shaw over Shaw’s plans to buyout Mountain Cablevision, a smaller cable provider serving parts of southwestern Ontario.  Rogers was upset because the purchase violated a “covenant” between the two telecom giants not to compete in each others’ service areas.

Now, Shaw’s trucks are rumbling down the roads of Delta, a community south of Vancouver,  as work begins on constructing a cable system that will directly compete against Bragg Communications’ Delta Cable.  Shaw also has won approval from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to competitively wire Ladner and adjacent neighborhoods southeast of Vancouver.

Shaw president Peter Bissonnette told industry news site Cartt.ca the wiring of Delta and Ladner comes as a result of “people there saying they would like to get Shaw.”  So now residents can look out their windows and see Delta Cable’s wiring on one side of the street and Shaw’s wires on the other.

Another success story for head-on competition leading to lower prices and more choice, right?

Not so fast.

As Cartt.ca reports (one article view is available for free, subscription required thereafter), there is a history to be considered here, and that may include another agenda beyond the “consumers wanted us so we came” explanation.

There’s a bit of history to the Delta system and Shaw, however. Back in 2006, when then-owner John Thomas decided to sell Delta Cable and Coast Cable, many assumed he would sell to Shaw. After all, Thomas was on Shaw’s board of directors. However, aware of the fact most of his employees would likely be out of work if nearby Shaw bought it, he instead surprised most by selling to what was then Persona Communications, for about $90 million.

Some months later, Persona itself was purchased for a reported $750 million by Bragg Communications, which does business, of course, as EastLink, primarily in Eastern Canada.

Cartt reports it is no secret Shaw wants the Delta region as part of its greater Vancouver service area, and the traditional route by which most cable companies do this is by buying out the incumbent provider.  Bragg Communications understands this, and has sold some of its own systems in the past, most recently in Saskatchewan.  But so far, not in Delta.

Bissonnette was cagey when asked if Shaw had pursued the buyout route, which is always cheaper than overbuilding an area with all new wiring.

“They know what we are doing. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat you know,” he said.

If Shaw adopts the same aggressive strategy in Delta they have used against Novus in downtown Vancouver, it will likely make Delta’s current cable system unprofitable.  Bragg would be forced to consider either engaging in a sustained price war, something Shaw is in a better position to handle because of revenue earned from non-competitive areas, or eventually sell the Delta Cable system at a fraction of its original value.

For comparison, Delta Cable charges $26 a month for analog basic cable plus $26.95 a month for a robust digital channel package.  Broadband service, with a 62GB usage cap is $39.50 per month.  They don’t seem to offer telephone service.  Shaw promoted a digital/basic combination package in downtown Vancouver for $9.95 a month and broadband for an additional $9.95.  Shaw to Delta Cable: Compete with that.

For a time, up to 28,000 households in the area may enjoy some benefits from a sustained price battle, unless Bragg capitulates and sells out early, but in the end, if Shaw engages in the kind of allegedly predatory pricing it has in downtown Vancouver against Novus, the benefits will be short-lived, and Shaw always has time to make up the difference down the road.

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