Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Comcast Is Quietly Using Think Tanks to Kill Net Neutrality

Esquire just published an article saying that scholars at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) are printing op-eds throughout the media in support of killing net neutrality - without disclosing the think tank's ties to Comcast.  Here is more:
A Net neutrality proposal—one that Comcast publicly supports and has been subject of protest and mainstream media criticism from those who believe the rules would slow innovation, limit speech and drive up the cost of access to the Internet—is open for public comment.
And now, op-eds in favor of the unpopular proposal from Comcast-linked think tanks are appearing in major publications—from the Wall Street Journal to U.S News and World Report—without disclosing the institutions' ties to the telecom.
Yesterday, a visiting fellow at one of those think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute’s Richard Bennett, wrote a story for leading tech website GigaOm in favor of the FCC's new Net neutrality rules. Bennett did not reveal the Institute’s relationship with Comcast at any point within the piece.
Comcast and its cable lobby partners spent over $70 million in the last decade lobbying for the new net neutrality rules that would allow them to create a slow lane on the web, charge more for tiered services, and artificially slow traffic to competitors.
When reached by phone, Bennett said that he had been writing about Net neutrality for a decade before joining the American Enterprise Institute. 
“AEI’s only had a tech policy center for maybe a year,” he said. “I think you’re trying to connect dots that aren’t there.
“The Institute has no official stance on the Net neutrality issue,” he added.
But the Institute’s most read stories on Net neutrality clearly favor the FCC’s new plan for a regulated Internet. One, titled “Time to give up the Net neutrality quest” was reprinted in the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion section.
Another, titled “Net neutrality is a bad idea that’s run its course,” was reprinted on RealClearMarkets.com. Neither Bennett nor the publication discloses his employer’s ties to Comcast in either piece, but both identify the American Enterprise Institute next to his byline.

The Esquire article notes that Holly Yeager of The Washington Post first reported about Comcast's close ties to various think tanks, including AEI, Aspen Institute, and Brookings Institution.  Of course, Comcast has close ties with a variety of other think tanks, including the Center for American Progress (CAP).

To be sure, numerous corporations have numerous ties with numerous think tanks, and the Comcast-think tank arrangement appears to be nothing out of the ordinary.