DC Trawler

Free Press and the art of profligate fudging

Mike Riggs Contributor
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Free Press, the media reform and pro-net neutrality think tank, *seemingly* has mud on its face yet again: It appears that in their haste to besiege the Federal Communications Commission with petitions signed by “real Americans,” calling for the implementation of “net neutrality” rules, Free Press mixed up their documents.

According to the website Media Freedom, the publicly available petitions on file with the FCC are in opposition to the Comcast-NBC merger, not the net neutrality regulations that Genachowski and the other four members of the commission will vote on December 21.

The brag copy on Free Press’s “Save the Internet” site reads as follows: “In a two-day marathon, SavetheInternet.com Coalition allies and activists delivered 2 million petitions for real Net Neutrality to the Federal Communications Commission before the close of the public comment period on new FCC rules. The petitions, collected from across the country, urged the FCC to stand up for real Net Neutrality and safeguard the open Internet. The agency is scheduled to vote on its proposed Net Neutrality rules at its Dec. 21 open meeting.”

Meanwhile, the ex parte filings at the FCC tell a slightly different story (Free Press has a history of messing up ex parte filings).

Here’s the text of the Free Press petition that an alleged two million Americans thought they were signing:

Dear Commissioners Copps and Clyburn (CC Chairman Julius Genachowski),

Chairman Genachowski’s proposed open Internet rules don’t meet any acceptable standard of real Net Neutrality. Unless they’re changed significantly, we urge you not to support them when you vote on Dec. 21.

First, the rules need to extend full Net Neutrality protections to both wired and wireless Internet users.

Second, they must have stronger language to prohibit “paid prioritization” schemes, which give phone and cable companies the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet.

Third, they must close massive loopholes for “specialized services” that allow industry to discriminate unfairly online.

Finally, they must ensure that Net Neutrality rests on a secure legal foundation that can withstand a court challenge.

Please continue to stand with me for real Net Neutrality protections and fix these rules before you vote.

And here’s the text of the letter on file with the FCC (sans *actual* signatures, but *with* a list of names):

Dear Federal Communications Commission,

The constituents below are among the more than two million Americans to have spoken out in support
of real and enforceable Net Neutrality protections. We urge the FCC to enact the strongest possible
protections to ensure that the Internet is a tremendous engine for free speech, creativity and economic
opportunity for everyone.
Petition Text:
We need you to stand up to Comcast and support the American people by:
–Passing strong Net Neutrality rules on all networks
–Restoring the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband
–Investigating Comcast’s anti-competitive behavior
–Stopping the Comcast-NBCU merger
Please do whatever it takes to protect Internet users and the open Internet.

What’s most surprising about this mixup is that even if their constituents knew Free Press had accidentally attached the names from one petition drive to the letter for another petition drive, they wouldn’t care.

Why? Because all Free Press petitions contain some sort of anti-corporate message coupled with aggressive demands for regulation in order to save the Internet, which is always in jeopardy. There’s very little difference between Free Press petitions, especially ones aimed at sticking Comcast.

Meanwhile, most of the documents Free Press submits to the FCC are technical and jargon-laden and generally totally different than their petitions. And honestly, they need to be, because the petitions are batty nonsense.

And a note about the names (seldom signatures, because the petitions are built up digitally) that Free Press hands over to lawmakers and regulators: They are collected from people who have no idea what Free Press is talking about. From a story we reported in July:

Lobbyists for the pro-net neutrality movement began circulating a letter [PDF] on Capitol Hill demanding the immediate passage of a law that would allow the FCC to regulate Internet broadband. The letter, sponsored by media reformist groups Free Press and the Nonprofit Technology Network, featured over 160 signatories, among them the Dr. Pepper Museum, Planned Parenthood of North Texas, and Operation Catnip, a spay-and-neuter clinic in Gainesville, Florida.

If you’re thinking that the aforementioned groups don’t sound like the net-neutrality types, you’d be right. One signatory doesn’t remember signing anything related to net neutrality, and the other signatories contacted by The Daily Caller could not explain their support for Title II reclassification — in fact, they didn’t even attempt to explain their support.