A "toolkit" provided to House Republicans to defend US comms watchdog the FCC's recent decision to tear up net neutrality rules was written by the cable lobby.
In just the latest example of special interests literally dictating what lawmakers say on significant policy issues, the "Draft Member Toolkit" [PDF] stretches to 24 pages and includes talking points, a "myth versus reality" section, and quotes from politicians and commentators supporting the move.
It was sent to Republican lawmakers by the party's leadership from an official party email address.
The document's metadata, however, reveals that the author is Kerry Landon, who is the assistant director of "industry grassroots" at the US cable industry's main trade association, the NCTA.
That the cable industry is in bed with the Republican Party will not come as a surprise to many – GOP lawmakers have persistently and sometimes peculiarly parroted arguments made by Big Cable in congressional hearings, speeches on the floor and whenever talking to reporters.
But the fact that their own briefing documents are being written by a special interest group is extraordinary even for Washington, DC.
As you might expect, the document is biased and misleading, offering carefully honed arguments that ignore obvious contradictions in order to push the argument that the idea of reopening the FCC's Open Internet Order again is a good thing (rather than an invitation to another three years of fighting that will ultimately only serve cable companies).
Perhaps more disturbingly, the one-page "FCC Title II Repeal Talking Points" looks very much like a template for the speech given by FCC chair Ajit Pai in announcing his decision to reopen the rules, even including the highly misleading (ie, false) claim that investment in internet networks fell by 5.6 per cent since the net neutrality rules were introduced.
It is also worth noting that the actual target of the document in this case – legislators – barely warrant a mention even though they may be pivotal in finally resolving net neutrality issues. Unless there is Congressional action, it is all too possible that the FCC's current effort to overturn the previous administration's rules will be overturned by the next administration before they take effect.
Only by introducing much-needed legislation to bring the law up to date with modern internet realities can we hope to get off the policy rollercoaster. Yet the notion of new legislation doesn’t get a mention in any of the talking points.
New legislation is only briefly addressed in the "myths versus reality" section, with one link suggesting that a "simple law" be passed to resolve the issue – a link that points to an aggressively partisan opinion piece – and another arguing that "both Democrats and Republicans have supported such legislation in the past," but again linking to a statement from only Republicans praising Pai's decision and criticizing Democrats.
In short, the document is perhaps a perfect representation of how special interest lobbyists – in this case from the cable industry – have managed to infiltrate the government at the highest levels and stir up partisan ill-feeling as part of a divide-and-conquer effort to undermine any rules and regulations placed against them. ®