Numerous opinion pieces running in publications like The Hill and Washington Examiner share two things in common: praise for Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed rollback of net neutrality rules, and millions in undisclosed funding from the telecommunications industry for the writers’ organizations.
Pai announced in an April 26 speech that he wants to roll back net neutrality rules that President Barack Obama’s administration put in place in 2015. Those open internet rules mean that internet service providers (ISPs) “should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks.”
Advocates for open internet like the nonprofit group Free Press heavily criticized Pai and President Donald Trump for attempting “to erase one of the most important public interest victories ever at the agency” and “leave people everywhere at the mercy of the phone and cable companies.”
Proponents of Pai’s open internet rollback are supporting the chairman in the op-ed pages of publications like The Hill and Washington Examiner. But their pro-telecom pieces don’t disclose that they have received heavy funding from the telecommunications industry, which has been aggressively lobbying to overturn the 2015 rules.
Leading organizations that have lobbied to overturn the rules include NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and CTIA, a group that represents “the U.S. wireless communications industry.” They have both contributed heavily to groups which are now praising Pai’s rollback of open internet rules.
Here are six examples where outlets published anti-net neutrality pieces without noting that the writers’ organizations have received telecom funding. (Searches were conducted via The Center for Public Integrity’s Nonprofit Network tool of available IRS filings.)
- Thomas M. Lenard, a senior fellow and president emeritus at the Technology Policy Institute, wrote an April 28 opinion piece for The Hill which praised Pai and defended ISPs against concerns over content blocking. Lenard’s group states that its supporters include AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and NCTA. The group received $1 million from NCTA from 2011-2014 and $22,500 from CTIA in 2011 and 2013.
- Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) President Tom Giovanetti wrote an April 27 opinion piece for The Hill praising Pai for “eliminating harmful regulation" and commending his “commitment to undo the two-year-old mistake of regulating the Internet under the old Title II.” IPI received $135,000 between 2010 and 2014 (the most recent years available) from MyWireless.org (now ACTwireless), a project of CTIA, and $110,000 from NCTA from 2011-2014.
- Digital Liberty Executive Director Katie McAuliffe wrote an April 27 piece for The Daily Caller praising Pai’s net neutrality remarks. Digital Liberty is a project of Americans for Tax Reform, which received $200,000 from NCTA from 2011-2014 and $115,000 from MyWireless.org from 2010-2014.
- Doug Brake, a senior telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), wrote an April 27 opinion piece for The Hill praising Pai for “moving in the right direction” with his net neutrality plans. The ITIF has received $220,000 from NCTA from 2010 to 2014 and $235,000 from CTIA from 2010 to 2014.
- Brandon Arnold, the executive vice president at the National Taxpayers Union, wrote an April 26 Washington Examiner piece that criticized existing net neutrality rules as having “stymied innovation and reduced the deployment of new broadband services.” The National Taxpayers Union received $200,000 from CTIA from 2010-2014.
- Jonathon Paul Hauenschild, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Communications & Technology, wrote an April 28 piece for The Hill attacking the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules. ALEC has close ties to the telecom industry (among many other corporate interests) and received $85,000 from CTIA from 2010-2014 and $41,000 from NCTA in 2010 and 2011.
Media Matters previously documented that media outlets have been promoting the anti-net neutrality Free State Foundation without noting it has received heavily financial backing from the telecommunications industry.