Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI
Writers backed by telecommunications money who are looking to attack current net neutrality rules have found an easy venue to place op-eds and hide their funding: the editorial page of The Hill.
In 2015, the FCC enacted net neutrality rules that protect consumers by prohibiting “internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use.” In a gift to the telecom industry, Republican chairman Ajit Pai last month unveiled his plans to undo those open-internet rules.
The telecom industry has heavily funded organizations that seek to turn public and lawmaker opinions against those Obama-era rules. The sector’s lead trade and lobbying groups include NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, CTIA, and Broadband for America.
The Hill, a D.C.-based outlet that caters to Capitol Hill, has become a favorite dumping ground for telecom-backed opinion pieces that benefit their corporate funders. Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack told Media Matters in a May 26 email that “oped writers sign official forms that require them to disclose any such funding and/or conflict of interests.” After Media Matters sent him a list of op-eds that had undisclosed conflicts of interest, Cusack said the publication would look into the matter. A follow-up question on the status of that review has not been answered as of posting.
Here are eight recent examples of The Hill running anti-net neutrality pieces without disclosing the telecom financing behind the writers. (Funding searches were conducted through the Center for Public Integrity's Nonprofit Network tool.)
Harold Ford Jr., honorary chairman of Broadband for America, wrote a May 24 opinion piece praising Pai for trying “to repeal burdensome public utility regulations.” Broadband for America is backed by telecommunications companies like AT&T and associations such as CTIA and NCTA. Ford’s limited liability company received $345,000 in consulting fees from Broadband for America in 2014, according to the group’s IRS 990 form.
Theodore Bolema and Michael Horney, who work for the Free State Foundation, wrote a May 15 opinion piece pushing for “light touch regulation of broadband.” The piece positively cited CTIA. Free State Foundation has received funding from NCTA and CTIA.
Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, wrote a May 10 opinion piece headlined “American innovation is the winner as the FCC tackles net neutrality” that specifically praised telecom companies. Citizens Against Government Waste has received funds from NCTA.
Paige Agostin, a senior policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, wrote a May 5 opinion piece praising Pai for issuing “a welcome response to an all-too-typical exercise in regulatory overreach.” Americans for Prosperity has received funds from NCTA.
Thomas M. Lenard, a senior fellow and president emeritus at the Technology Policy Institute, wrote an April 28 opinion piece which praised Pai and defended internet service providers against concerns over content blocking. Lenard’s group states on its website that its supporters include AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and NCTA. The group has received funds from NCTA and CTIA, according to its 990 forms.
Jonathon Paul Hauenschild, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Task Force on Communications & Technology, wrote an April 28 piece attacking the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules. ALEC has received funding from NCTA and CTIA.
Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), wrote an April 27 opinion piece praising Pai for helping to eliminate “harmful regulation." IPI has received funds from NCTA and MyWireless.org (now ACTwireless), which is a project of CTIA.
Doug Brake, a senior telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), wrote an April 27 opinion piece praising Pai for “moving in the right direction” with his net neutrality plans. The ITIF has received funding from NCTA and CTIA.