Net Neutrality Debate Now Tainted by Scandal

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Net Neutrality is an important concept that internet providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon should not be awarded stranglehold power over what we see and post online. The internet belongs to all of us, social media managers, virtual assistants, content writers, everyone who posts or consumes content. In 2015, internet freedom groups and 3.7 million commenters won strong net neutrality rules from the Obama-era US Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

Now, the Trump-era FCC has surprisingly decided to let those same cable companies decide which websites and apps you use, where you get your news, how you listen to music and watch videos — pretty much everything you do on the internet.

Last week, Reuters news service reported, “Landmark U.S. ‘net neutrality’ rules will expire on June 11, and new regulations handing providers broad new power over how consumers can access the Internet will take effect, the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday in setting the date.”

(This Reuters article and video will give you background details and bring you up to speed on all the ramifications of the issue.)

At face value, the change does not seem fair. It sounds as if someone is attempting to take away your freedom of speech!  

There will be protests nationwide on Monday, May 14th. Open air speech is still free. As is assembling in a public place. Here is how you can join one near you.

Again, from Reuters: “A group of 22 states led by New York and others have sued to try to block the new rules from taking effect, and the U.S. Senate may vote as early as next week to reject the December repeal.”

In a free society, everyone is allowed to have an opinion. You can be for or against net neutrality. Fair is fair. But…

Essential Consultants Scandal

Along comes the scandal.

Michael Cohen. Essential Consultants. And possible influence peddling. What if money and not freedom of information is driving the FCC’s controversial decision?

Let me give you a little timeline on Cohen & Essential Consultants.

  1. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen created a shell company, Essential Consultants, on October 2016, just after the Access Hollywood video broke. (It is the tape released a month before the presidential election, that caught future President Donald J. Trump on a hot microphone in 2005, bragging about using his celebrity status to force himself on women to whom he was not married.)
  2. Cohen allegedly used Essential Consultants to pay porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money. (Conducted either with or without Trump’s knowledge and approval. The “jury” is still out on that.)
  3. A few weeks later, AT&T reportedly began issuing $50,000 monthly payments – $600,000 total – to Essential Consultants for Cohen’s insight on Trump’s thinking about net neutrality.

Last week, AT&T released a message to employees — obtained & published by POLITICO. It reads in part:

“Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and we have done so in previous administrations, as well.”

Problem is, Cohen was not an independent consultant. He was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time. His fixer. His man of action.

Blatant influence-peddling? You decide. The Trump-era FCC did vote in a manner favoring AT&T.

We talk a lot about ROI in social media.

According to this article published in The Atlantic last week:

“If AT&T paid a monthly fee of $50,000, Essential Consultants would have received more money in the year than AT&T’s highest-paid lobbying firms, Mayer Brown and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld, which were paid $420,000 and $400,000 respectively. In 2017, AT&T paid 14 firms at least $200,000 to work Washington for the telecommunications giant.”

What if money and not freedom of information is driving the ultimate net neutrality decision?

The Senate is scheduled to vote this coming week on whether to overrule the FCC and save net neutrality.

Pro-net neutrality forces believe they are just one vote away from the 51 required to overrule the FCC; this new scandal could allow for a grassroots pressure movement to be mounted for a win.”

But time is short.

A website has been established to help you contact your US Senators and make your opinion known.

If an overwhelming voice of the people just saved a cancelled TV show (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which will move from Fox to NBC this fall), who knows what is possible? Even in the fantasyland of Washington D.C.

{Normally I would end with the above one/two punch of optimism and sarcasm. But, now I would ask: if net neutrality did not exist, would all those Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans have had the free and unfettered access to the internet to exercise their constitutionally mandated freedom of speech? To take advantage of their unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as provided in the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Contact your US Senator, now!}

(And, thanks to Ira Andelman for research on the timeline and his devotion to this issue that motivated me to do this blog today)

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