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Comcast Sock Puppet Says Rejecting Merger of Comcast/Time Warner Cable Because It’s Big Is Bad

Supporting Comcast's merger agenda

Supporting Comcast’s merger agenda

A conservative think tank with ties to corporate money and the American Legislative Exchange Council says the FCC should not reject the Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger for emotional, “big is bad” sloganeering.

Seth Cooper, a former director of the ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force and current Amicus Counsel for the corporate group made his comments about the merger under the moniker of the Free State Foundation.

The FCC’s due diligence in that examination of the deal, Cooper says, must “disregard pleas for it to reject Comcast/TWC out of hand, based on appeals to emotional incredulity or ‘big is bad’ sloganeering; Stand firm against calls that, under the guise of protecting consumers, the agency impose conditions in order to protect market rivals…; reject dragging out its review process…; and avoid the imposition of any conditions on the merger unrelated to demonstrable concerns over market power and anticompetitive conduct.”

Cooper parrots Comcast’s press releases promoting the multi-billion dollar merger, claiming it will lead to a faster transition to digital cable, faster Internet speeds via DOCSIS 3.1, and expanded wireless backhaul services.

Unfortunately for Cooper, the facts are not on his side.

As part of Time Warner Cable’s Maxx initiative, the march to digital cable in unmistakable at Time Warner. TWC Maxx-upgraded cities now get faster speeds at a lower cost than what Comcast offers, and no data caps. Both cable companies are already in the wireless backhaul market, installing fiber to cell towers to support 4G LTE broadband. But LTE-enabled towers are highly likely to already have fiber connections, limiting future growth. A merger between the two cable companies won’t dramatically change that market reality.

Telecom Lobbyists Flood Media With Hit Pieces Against New Book Criticizing Telecom Monopolies

targetSusan Crawford’s new book, “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age,” is on the receiving end of a lot of heat from industry lobbyists and those working for shadowy think tanks and “consumer groups.”

Most of the critics have not disclosed their industry connections. Stop the Cap! will.

Crawford’s premise that Americans are suffering the impact of an anti-competitive marketplace for broadband just doesn’t “add up,” according to Zack Christenson and Steve Pociask, both with the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research.

Christenson and Pociask’s rebuttal of Crawford’s conclusions about broadband penetration, price, and its monopoly/duopoly status relies on industry-supplied statistics and outdated government research. For instance, the source material on wireless pricing predates the introduction of bundled “Share Everything” plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless that raised prices for many customers.

Their proposed solutions for the problems of broadband access, pricing, and competition come straight from AT&T’s lobbying priority checklist:

  • Free up more wireless spectrum, which is likely to be acquired by existing providers, not new ones that enter the market to compete;
  • Allow AT&T and other phone companies to abandon current copper-based networks, which would also allow them to escape legacy regulations that require them to provide service to consumers in rural areas.

One pertinent detail missing from the piece published in the Daily Caller is the disclosure Pociask is a a telecom consultant and former chief economist for Bell Atlantic (today Verizon). The “American Consumer Institute” itself is suspected of being backed by corporate interests from the telecommunications industry. ACI has closely mirrored the legislative agendas of AT&T and Verizon, opposing Net Neutrality, supporting cable franchise reform that allowed U-verse and FiOS to receive statewide video franchises in several states, and generally opposes government regulation of telecommunications.

Critics for hire.

Critics for hire.

The so-called consumer group’s website links primarily to corporate-backed astroturf and political interest groups that routinely defend corporate interests at the expense of consumers. Groups like the CATO Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Koch Brother-backed Heartland Institute, and the highly free-market, deregulation-oriented James Madison Institute are all offered to readers.

The Wall Street Journal trotted out Nick Schulz to handle its book review. Schulz is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is funded by corporate contributions to advocate a pro-business agenda.

Schulz attempts to school Crawford on the definition of “monopoly,” eventually suggesting “oligopoly” might be a more precise way to state it.

“Washington’s fights over telecommunications—and just about every other industrial sector—could use a lot less militancy and self-righteousness and a lot more sound economics,” concludes Schulz, while ignoring the fact interpretation of what constitutes “sound economics” is in the eye of the beholder. All too often those making that determination are backed by self-interested corporate entities with a stake in the outcome.

Hance Haney from the Discovery Institute claims Crawford’s conclusions are “misplaced nostalgia for utility regulation.” Haney cites AT&T’s breakup as the spark for competition in the telecommunications sector and proof that monopolies cannot stand when voice, video, and data service from traditional providers can be bypassed. That assumes you can obtain those services without the broadband service sold by the phone or cable company (that also likely owns your wireless service provider and controls access to cable television programming).

Haney also ignores the divorce of Ma Bell has been amicably resolved. AT&T and Verizon have managed to pick up most of their former constituent pieces (the Baby Bells) and today only “compete” with one another in the wireless sector, where each charges identically-high prices for service.


Crawford’s critics often share a connection with the industry she criticizes in her new book.

Haney places the blame for these problems on the government. He argues exclusive cable franchise agreements instigated the lack of cable competition and allowed “hidden cross-subsidies” to flourish, causing the marketplace to stagnate. Haney’s argument ignores history. In the 1970s, before the days of USA, TNT and ESPN, the two largest cable operators TelePrompTer and TCI nearly went bankrupt due to excessive debt leverage. With a very low initial return on investment, exclusive cable franchise agreements were adopted by cities to attract cable providers to wire their communities. Wall Street argues to this day that there is no room for a high level of competition for cable because of infrastructure costs and the unprofitable chase for subscribers that will be asked to cover those expenses. Government was also not responsible for the industry drumbeat for consolidation, not competition, to protect turfs and profits.

The cable industry repeated that argument with cable broadband service, claiming oversight and regulations would stifle innovation and investment. The industry even won the right to exclude competitors from guaranteed access to those networks, claiming it would make broadband less attractive for future investment and expansion.

Haney never discloses the Discovery Institute was founded, in part, to support the elimination of government regulation of telecommunications networks. Broadband Reports also notes the Discovery Institute is subsidized by telecom carriers to make the case for deregulation at all costs.

The Discovery Institute is essentially a PR firm that will present farmed science and manipulated statistics for any donating constituents looking to make a political point.

Broadband for America, perhaps the largest industry-backed astroturf telecom group in the country and itself cited as a source by the American Consumer Institute, seized on the criticism of Crawford’s book for its own attack piece. But every book critic mentioned has a connection to the telecom industry or has ties to groups that receive substantial telecom industry contributions.

NetCompetition chairman Scott Cleland, who accused Crawford of cherry picking information, does not bother to mention NetCompetition is directly funded by the same telecom industry Crawford’s book criticizes. Cleland in fact works to represent the interests of his clients: large phone and cable operators.

Randolph May’s criticism of Crawford’s book is unsurprising when one considers he is president of the Free State Foundation, a special interest group friendly to large telecom companies. FSF also supports the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group with strong ties to AT&T.

Richard Bennett, who once denied to Stop the Cap! he worked for a K Street lobbyist (he does), attacked the book on behalf of his benefactors at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a group Reuters notes  receives financial support from telecommunications companies. He also received a $20,000 stipend from Time Warner Cable.

In fact, Broadband for America could not cite a single source criticizing Crawford’s book that does not have ties to the industry Crawford criticizes.

Panic 911: Big Telecom Front Group’s Silly Defense of Internet Overcharging

Phillip "Oh look, more industry-backed research in denial of consumer-loathing of Internet Overcharging" Dampier

Phillip “Oh look, more industry-backed research in denial regarding unpopular usage caps and consumption billing” Dampier

It seems America’s biggest industry-funded broadband astroturf group, Broadband for America, thinks the New America Foundation completely misses the point of “new pricing strategies” like restrictive usage caps, costly consumption-based billing, and fiendishly high overlimit fees. In a hurry, they released this particularly weak argument favoring usage pricing:

A new report by the New America Foundation suggests that “dwindling competition is fueling the rise of increasingly costly and restrictive Internet usage caps” in the broadband sector. But as we’ve explained before, these experimental new pricing strategies are actually signs of competition in the market and ultimately benefit consumers.

In terms of competition between broadband service providers, a study by Boston College Law School Professor Daniel Lyons concluded “data caps and other pricing strategies are ways that broadband companies can distinguish themselves from one another to achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace.” He also concluded these practices were not anti-consumer: “When firms experiment with different business models, they can tailor services to niche audiences whose interests are inadequately satisfied by a one-size-fits-all flat-rate plan.” Indeed, many consumers are no longer satisfied with one-size-fits-all rate plans. Since data usage by individual users can vary dramatically, imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing would result in light data users subsidizing the use of heavier ones. As Michigan State University Professor of Information Studies Steven Wildman explains, not having usage-based pricing models “means that light users pay a higher effective rate for broadband service, cross-subsidizing the activities of those who spend more time online. With usage-based pricing, those who use more bandwidth contribute more toward the cost of building and maintaining broadband networks.”

Broadband providers should be free to experiment with usage-based pricing and other pricing strategies as tools in their arsenal to meet rising broadband demand on their networks. Moving forward, Lyons recommends instituting public policies that allow providers the freedom to experiment, in order to best preserve the spirit of innovation that has characterized the Internet since its inception.

Broadband for America thinks they are clever when they introduce “academic papers” that extend credibility to their arguments. No, Broadband for America, we get the point. Your benefactors want to charge customers more  money for less service and call that a fair deal.

The wheels driving their talking points start to fall off the moment one peaks under their covers:

1. Broadband for America (BfA) is America’s largest telecom industry front group, backed almost entirely by cable and phone companies and dozens of supporting groups that are typically funded by those companies, have telecom industry board members, or whose lifeblood depends on doing business with Big Telecom companies.

2. Experimental pricing plans that largely leave existing pricing in place –and– impose new service limitations is not a sign of competition that benefits consumers, it is proof of its absence. With today’s broadband duopoly, there is little risk imposing new fees or service restrictions when the only competition you have typically follows suit. There is no evidence that usage-based pricing is saving consumers money, particularly when broadband providers are using their marketplace power to further increase prices.

3. There is no evidence “many consumers are no longer satisfied with one-size-fits-all rate plans” for home broadband. In fact, the reverse has been proved conclusively, sometimes by industry-funded researchers.

4. With a 90-95% gross margin on broadband, there is plenty of room for price cuts –and– unlimited broadband, but why give those profits away when lack of competition doesn’t provide the necessary push. Instead, providers’ ideas of “innovative pricing” are always upwards and include usage limits, modem rental fees, and other restrictions.

5. The railroad industry argued much the same case in the early 20th century when communities complained about wide pricing disparity, depending on local competition. We all know what eventually happened there.

6. Full disclosure, as is too often the case, is completely lacking at BfA. So we’ve offered to help:

The “study by Boston College Law School Professor Daniel Lyons” is accurate. He is now a faculty member there. But BfA fails to disclose the study was actually produced on behalf of the Koch Brother-funded Mercatus Center, which specializes in industry-friendly position papers on deregulation. Lyons is also on the Board of Academic Advisers at the Free State Foundation, itself an industry-backed astroturf group that advocates on behalf of large telecom companies, among others.

His colleague Michigan State University Professor of Information Studies Steven Wildman is also an adviser at the Free State Foundation. He is also a bit more transparent about where the money comes from for his studies advocating usage-based pricing – the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the largest cable industry lobbying and trade group in the United States.

The only surprise Lyons and Wildman could have delivered is if they advocated against these Internet Overcharging schemes. But then they probably would not have been invited to present their findings at an NCTA Connects briefing last week entitled, “Connecting the Dots on Usage-Based Pricing.”

We at Stop the Cap! can connect the dots as well.

Inside ALEC: How Corporations Ghost-Write Anti-Consumer State Telecom Legislation

[Stop the Cap! has written extensively about the pervasive influence some of the nation’s largest cable and phone companies have on telecommunications legislation in this country.  On the state level, one group above all others is responsible for quietly getting company-ghost-written bills and resolutions into the hands of state lawmakers to introduce as their own.]

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the latest corporate response to campaign finance and lobbying reform — a Washington, D.C.-based “middle man” that brings lawmakers and corporate interests together while obfuscating the obvious conflict of interest to voters back home if they realized what was going on.

ALEC focuses on state laws its corporate members detest because, in many cases, they represent the only regulatory obstacles left after more than two decades of deregulatory fervor on the federal level.  State lawmakers are ALEC’s targets — officeholders unaccustomed to a multi-million dollar influence operation.  The group invites lawmakers to participate in policy sessions that equally balance corporate executives on one side with elected officials on the other.  Consumers are not invited to participate.

ALEC’s telecom members have several agendas on the state level, mostly repealing:

  • Local franchising and oversight of cable television service;
  • Statewide oversight of the quality of service and measuring the reliability of phone and cable operators;
  • Consumer protection laws, including those that offer customers a third party contact for unresolved service problems;
  • Universal service requirements that insist all customers in a geographic region be permitted to receive service;
  • Funding support for public, educational, and government access television channels;
  • Rules governing the eventual termination of essential service for non/past due payments;
  • Local zoning requirements and licensing of outside work.

But ALEC is not always focused on deregulation or “smaller government.” In fact, many of its clients want new legislation that is designed to protect their position of incumbency or enhance profits.  Cable and phone company-written bills that restrict or ban public broadband networks are introduced to lawmakers through ALEC-sponsored events.  In several cases, model legislation that was developed by cable and phone companies was used as a template for nearly-identical bills introduced in several states without disclosing who actually authored the original bill.

ALEC specializes in secrecy, rarely granting interviews or talking about the corporations that pay tens of thousands of dollars to belong.  Corporate members also enjoy full veto rights over any proposal or idea not to their liking, and aborted resolutions or legislative proposals are kept completely confidential. More often than not, however, legislators and corporate members come to an agreement on something, and the end product ends up in a central database of model bills and resolutions ready to be introduced in any of 50 state legislatures.

Many do, and often these proposed bills are remarkably similar, if not identical. That proved to be no coincidence.  In July 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy was able to obtain a complete copy of ALEC’s master database of proposed legislation.  The Center called it a stark example of “corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”

National Public Radio takes an inside look at the American Legislative Exchange Council and how it works to help major corporations influence and change state laws. (October 29, 2010) (8 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

ALEC’s Corporate Telecom Members

ALEC defends itself saying it does not directly lobby any legislator.  That is, in fact true.  But many of its corporate members clearly do.  AT&T is one of ALEC’s most high profile members, serving as a “Private Enterprise Board” member, state corporate co-chair of Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (all AT&T service areas), a member of the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task force, and “Chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference (a privilege for those contributing $50,000).

AT&T’s lobbying is legendary, and is backed with enormous campaign contributions to legislators on the state and federal level.

But AT&T isn’t the only telecommunications company that belongs to or supports ALEC:

  • CenturyLink (also including Qwest Communications), “Director” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($10,000 in 2010)
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Comcast, State corporate co-chair of Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah and recipient of ALEC’s 2011 State Chair of the Year Award
  • Cox Communications, “Trustee” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($5,000 in 2010)
  • Time Warner Cable, State corporate co-chair of Ohio, “Director” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($10,000 in 2010)
  • Verizon Communications, Private Enterprise Board member and State corporate co-chair of Virginia and Wyoming

ALEC supporters among trade groups and astroturf/corporate-influenced “non profits”:

  • National Cable and Telecommunications Association, ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member
  • Free State Foundation (think tank promoting limited government and rule of law principles in telecommunications and information technology policy)
  • Heartland Institute, Exhibitor at ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference, Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member, Education Task Force member, Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, Financial Services Subcommittee member and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member

ALEC’s Ready-to-Introduce Legislation

The two most pervasive pieces of legislation ALEC’s telecom members (especially AT&T) want as a part of state law are bills to strip local authority over cable systems and hand it to the state government and the elimination or excessive micromanagement of community broadband networks:

This model bill for increased cable competition strips most of the authority your community has over cable television operations and transfers it to under-funded or less aggressive state bodies. Although the bill claims to protect local oversight and community access stations, the statewide video franchise fee almost always destroys the funding model for public, educational, and government access channels.

These municipal broadband bills are always written to suggest community and private players must share a "level playing field." But bills like these always exempt the companies that actually wrote the bill, and micromanage and limit the business operations of the community provider.

Legislators: Bring the family to Mardi Gras World on us, sponsored by America's largest telecommunications companies.

WHYY Philadelphia’s ‘Fresh Air’ spent a half hour exploring who really writes the legislation introduced in state legislatures. When ALEC gets involved, The Nation reporter John Nichols thinks the agenda is clear: “All of those pieces of legislation and those resolutions really err toward a goal, and that goal is the advancement of an agenda that seems to be dictated at almost every turn by multinational corporations.” (July 21, 2011) (32 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Unfortunately, state lawmakers are not always sophisticated enough to recognize a carefully crafted legislative agenda at work.  National Public Radio found one excellent example — the 2010 Arizona immigration law that requires police to arrest anyone who cannot prove they entered the country legally when asked.  America’s immigration problems remain a major topic on the agenda at some ALEC events, curious for a corporate-backed group until you realize one of ALEC’s members — the Corrections Corporation of America — America’s largest private prison operator, stood to earn millions providing incarceration services for what some estimated could be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of new prisoners being held on suspicion of immigration violations.

CCA was in the room when the model immigration legislation, eventually adopted by Arizona’s legislature, was written at an ALEC conference in 2009.

Bring the Kids, Stay for the Corporate Influence

Getting legislators to attend these seminars isn’t as hard as it might sound.

In January, we reported members of the North Carolina General Assembly, who showed their willingness to support telecom industry-written bills when it passed an anti-community broadband initiative in 2011, were wined and dined (along with their staff) by ALEC at the Mardi Gras World celebration in New Orleans.  Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Time Warner Cable), who introduced the aforementioned measure, brought her husband to Asheville to enjoy a special weekend as the featured guest speaker at a dinner sponsored by North Carolina’s state cable lobbying group:

The North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Association reported they not only picked up Marilyn’s food and bar bill ($290 for the Aug. 6-8 event), they also covered her husband Alex, too.  Alex either ate and drank less than Marilyn, or chose cheaper items from the menu, because his food tab came to just $185.50.  The cable lobby also picked up the Avila’s $471 hotel bill, and handed Alex another $99 in walking-around money to go and entertain himself during the weekend event.  The total bill, effectively covered by the state’s cable subscribers: $1,045.50.

Rep. Avila with Marc Trathen, Time Warner Cable's top lobbyist (right) Photo by: Bob Sepe of Action Audits

ALEC makes it easy because it pays the way for lawmakers and families to attend their events through the award of “scholarships”:

The organization encourages state lawmakers to bring their families. Corporations sponsor golf tournaments on the side and throw parties at night, according to interviews and records obtained by NPR.

[…] Videos and photos from one recent ALEC conference show banquets, open bar parties and baseball games — all hosted by corporations. Tax records show the group spent $138,000 to keep legislators’ children entertained for the week.

But the legislators don’t have to declare these as corporate gifts.

Consider this: If a corporation hosts a party or baseball game and legislators attend, most states require the lawmakers to say where they went and who paid. In this case though, legislators can just say they went to ALEC’s conference. They don’t have to declare which corporations sponsored these events.

Reporter John Nichols told NPR ALEC’s focus on state politics is smart:

“We live at the local and state level. That’s where human beings come into contact more often than not,” he says. “We live today in a country where there’s a Washington obsession, particularly by the media but also by the political class. … And yet, in most areas, it’s not Washington that dictates the outlines, the parameters of our life. … And so if you come in at the state government level, you have a much greater ability to define how you’re going to operate.”


  • ALEC Exposed: Access a database of more than 800 corporate ghost-written bills and resolutions intended to become state law in all 50 states. Sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy.
  • ALEC’s Database Revealed: A more general indictment of ALEC and its coordinated agenda to allow corporate influence to hold an increasing role in public policy.
  • Protestors Demand End to Verizon’s Involvement in ALEC: In Albany, N.Y., protestors turned up in front of Verizon demanding the company end its association with ALEC.
  • California Lawmakers Enjoy Free Trips to Hawaii, Europe: California’s state politicians are under fire for lavish travel arranged by ALEC.

Astroturf and Industry-Backed, Dollar-a-Holler Friends Support Telco’s USF Reform Plan

So who is for the ABC Plan?  Primarily phone companies, their business partners, and dollar-a-holler astroturf friends:

American Consumer InstituteSourceWatch called them a telecom industry-backed astroturf group.  Karl Bode from Broadband Reports discovered “the institute’s website is registered to ‘Stephen Pociask, a telecom consultant and former chief economist for Bell Atlantic [today Verizon].”  The group, claiming to focus “on economic policy issues that affect society as a whole,” spends an inordinate amount of its time on telecommunications hot button issues, especially AT&T and Verizon’s favorites: cable franchise reform and opposition to Net Neutrality.

Anna Marie Kovacs:  Determining what is good for Wall Street is her business, as founder and President of Regulatory Source Associates, LLC. RSA provides investment professionals with analysis of federal and state regulation of the telecom and cable industries.

Dollar-a-holler support?

Consumer Awareness Project: A relatively new entrant, CAP is AT&T’s new darling — a vocal advocate for AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile.  But further digging revealed more: the “group” is actually a project of Washington, D.C. lobbying firm Consumer Policy Solutions, which includes legislative and regulatory advocacy work and implementation of grassroots mobilization.

That is the very definition of interest group-“astroturf.”

Randolph May from the Free State Foundation supports "state's rights," but many of them want no part of a plan his group supports.

Free State Foundation: A misnamed conservative, “states rights” group.  Leader Randolph May loves the ABC Plan, despite the fact several individual states are asking the FCC not to impose it on them.

Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership:  Whatever Verizon and AT&T want, HTTP is also for.  The group was embroiled in controversy over its unflinching opposition to Net Neutrality and love for the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.  Its member groups, including MANA and LULAC, are frequent participants in AT&T’s dollar-a-holler lobbying endeavors.

Robert J. Shapiro: Wrote an article for Huffington Post calling the ABC Plan worth consideration.  Also worth mentioning is the fact he is now chairman of what he calls an “economic advisory firm,” which the rest of the world calls a run-of-the-mill D.C. lobbyist firm — Sonecon.  It comes as no surprise AT&T is a client.  In his spare time, Shapiro also writes reports advocating Internet Overcharging consumers for their broadband service.

Indiana Exchange Carrier Association: A lobbying group representing rural Indiana telephone companies, primarily owned by TDS Telecom.  It’s hardly a surprise the companies most likely to benefit from the ABC Plan would be on board with their support.

Indiana Telecommunications Association: A group of 40 telephone companies serving the state of Indiana.  For the aforementioned reasons, it’s no surprise ITA supports the ABC Plan.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:  Reuters notes this group received financial support from telecommunications companies, so lining up behind a plan those companies favor comes as little surprise.  ITIF also believes usage caps can deter piracy, so they’re willing to extend themselves way out in order to sell the telecom industry’s agenda.

Internet Innovation Alliance:  Another group backed by AT&T, IIA also funds Nemertes Research, the group that regularly predicts Internet brownouts and data tsunamis, which also hands out awards to… AT&T and Verizon.

The Indiana Exchange Carrier Assn. represents the phone companies that will directly benefit from the adoption of the ABC Plan.

Bret Swanson:  He penned a brief note of support on his personal blog.  When not writing that, Swanson’s past work included time at the Discovery Institute, a “research group” that delivers paid, “credentialed” reports to telecommunications company clients who waive them before Congress to support their positions.  Swanson is a “Visiting Fellow” at Arts+Labs/Digital Society, which counted as its “partners” AT&T and Verizon.

Minority Media & Telecom Council: Tries to go out of its way to deny being affiliated or “on the take” of telecom companies, but did have to admit in a blog posting it takes money from big telecom companies for “conference sponsorships.”  Some group members appear frequently at industry panel discussions, and mostly advocate AT&T’s various positions, including strong opposition to reclassify broadband as a utility service.

MMTC convened a Broadband and Social Justice Summit earlier this year that featured a range of speakers bashing Net Neutrality, and the group’s biggest highlighted media advisory on its website as of this date is its support for the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.  Yet group president David Honig claims he can’t understand why some consumer groups would suspect groups like his of engaging in dollar-a-holler advocacy, telling The Hill, “We’ve seen no examples of reputable organizations that do things because of financial contributions. It’s wrong to suggest such things.”

Mobile Future: Sponsored by AT&T, Mobile Future curiously also includes some of AT&T’s best friends, including the Asian Business Association, LULAC, MANA, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Montana Independent Telecommunications Systems: Primarily a group for Montana’s independent telephone companies, who will benefit enormously from the ABC Plan.

What major corporate entity does not belong to this enormous advocacy group?

The National Grange:  A group with a long history advocating for the interests of telephone companies.  Over the years, the National Grange has thrown its view in on Verizon vs. the RIAA, a request for Congress to support industry friendly legislation, a merger between Verizon and NorthPoint Communications, and USF issues.

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 explain the membership roster.

Taxpayers Protection Alliance:  One of the tea party groups, TPA opposes higher USF fees on consumers.  The ABC Plan website had to tread carefully linking to this single article favorable to their position.  Somehow, we think it’s unlikely the group will link to the TPA’s louder voice demanding an end to broadband stimulus funding many ABC Plan backers crave.

TechAmerica: Guess who is a member?  AT&T, of course.  So is Verizon.  And CenturyLink.  TechAmerica call themselves “the industry’s largest advocacy organization and is dedicated to helping members’ top and bottom lines.”  (Consumers not included.)

Tennessee Telecommunications Association: TTA’s independent phone company members stand to gain plenty if the ABC Plan is enacted, so they are happy to lend their support.

Rep. Terry's two biggest contributors are CenturyLink and Qwest.

Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon):  His top five contributors are all telecommunications companies, including CenturyLink, Pine Telephone, and Qwest.  He also gets money from AT&T and Verizon.  It’s no surprise he’s a supporter: “We are encouraged by the growing consensus among stakeholders as developed in the ‘America’s Broadband Connectivity Plan’ filed with the Federal Communications Commission today, and we hope that consensus will continue to grow.”

Representative Lee Terry (R-Nebraska): He co-signed Rep. Walden’s statement.  Rep. Terry’s two biggest contributors are Qwest and CenturyLink.  Now that CenturyLink owns Qwest, it’s two-campaign-contributions-in-one.  And yes, he gets a check from AT&T, too.

Representative Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana): “Today’s filing of the ‘America’s Broadband Connectivity Plan’ is welcomed input on the intercarrier compensation and Universal Service Fund reform front,” Scalise said.  Now Scalise is ready to welcome this year’s campaign contribution from AT&T, which he has not yet reportedly received.  In 2008, Scalise received $13,250.  In 2010, $10,000.  This cycle, so far he has only been able to count on Verizon, which threw $2,500 his way.  Scalise voted earlier this year to overturn the FCC’s authority to enact Net Neutrality.

USTelecom Association: The only news here would be if USTA opposed the ABC Plan.  Included on USTA’s board of directors are company officials from: Frontier Communications, AT&T, CenturyLink/Qwest, Windstream, FairPoint Communications, and Verizon.  That’s everyone.

Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association:  Their active members, including Frontier Communications, are all telephone companies inside Wisconsin that will directly benefit if the ABC Plan is enacted.

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