Secret Telecom Powerpoint Presentation Outlines Anti-Net Neutrality Conspiracy

by Matt Klassen on May 13, 2010

It’s no secret that almost everyone in the world loves a good conspiracy theory, and so it’s no wonder that when word leaked out that several of the major American telecom companies were conducting backroom planning sessions, developing powerpoint presentations outlining how to secretly assassinate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) controversial Net Neutrality plan, the ears of the American liberal media perked up and soon impassioned cries for free speech, open internet, and the rights of Americans were filling the blogosphere.

The coordinated telecom attack against Net Neutrality, the liberal media blog Think Progress claimed, was being openly funded by companies like Comcast, AT&T, and the US Telecom Association, and, as the powerpoint presentation proved, this allied telecom group had a nefarious (not to mention concise)multi-point plan for how it was going to take down the FCC’s Net Neutrality for good.

There’s just one problem with Think Progress’ claim: It’s not actually true.

The problem, it turns out, is a classic case of truth being much stranger than fiction, as early reports indicate that the controversial powerpoint presentation was nothing more than a class project prepared by a small group of MBA students at a Florida university. The project itself was one of several that the students prepared as part of a think-tank competition sponsored by the free-market advocacy group Atlas Economic Research Foundation, who sponsors competitions like this all over the world.

What’s more, the powerpoint presentation that was thought to be a coordinated attack on the FCC’s open internet didn’t even win the competition, losing out to a group that presented a hypothetical argument for supporting educational reform in Poland. It’s days like this that I just have to laugh over the general gullibility of the left wing American media (or perhaps just American media in general).

Although this particular story turned out to be bogus, there is no question that the telecom industry will begin, if it hasn’t already, actively lobbying against the FCC’s proposed changes to its Net Neutrality plan, with one Comcast executive going so far as to claim that the Net Neutrality door, once opened, will lead us towards a scary future.

Much in the same way HMO lobbyists have used the threat of Communism to rally the American people against public health care for the past several decades, so too will telecom lobbyists, as the threat of FCC price regulations and proposed competition controls really just doesn’t sound all that American.

Further opposition of the FCC’s proposed Net Neturality plan, which would see the reclassification of wireless broadband as a form of telecommunications, is clearly targeted at swaying public opinion, as telecom companies argue that the regulations and standards the FCC is looking to impose would harm consumers, hinder investments, and cost jobs.

Whatever the future of the FCC’s Net Neutrality plan turns out to be, one thing is clear, every step towards an open internet will certainly be met with staunch opposition from the telecom sector, and that resistance, I fear, may do more damage to Net Neutrality than any secret telecom powerpoint presentation ever could.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jordan Richardson May 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

Yeah, that darn “liberal media” is always at it with their gullibility.

As a regular reader of Think Progress and a gullible liberal myself, I think readers of this entry would be interested in the fact that the entry linked to in this article has been updated to include and respond to the CNET item.

It notes, in part, “(Declan) McCullagh misleads his readers by claiming the presentation was created only by ‘students’ unrelated to any industry groups or lobbyists.”

Hardly surprising that McCullagh would mislead readers, even in his CNET capacity. Of course, some might find his global warming “criticism” more enlightening or perhaps his ranting and raving about gun rights. Golly, he even cites Sarah Palin as a reputable source.

Jordan Richardson May 13, 2010 at 6:33 am

Incidentally, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation is far from an impartial “think tank” and the mere fact that this competition took place sponsored by this “think tank” should raise alarm bells.

Atlas has consistently stated that climate change is “not a crisis,” for instance, all the while taking donations from Exxon and supporting anti-climate organizations. This philosophy extends to other relevant areas as well, as they’re willing to throw money and power behind anything that advances their vision to bring “freedom to the world.”

So again, for McCullagh to state that the presentation was “unrelated” to industry groups or lobbyists takes some doing. There’s just too much dirt on the hands of these Atlas guys to not investigate a story like this, making it less a matter of gullibility and more a matter of keeping a watchful eye on a “think tank” that has a fairly jaded history.

Matt Klassen May 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I still have to read anything that doesn’t lead me to conclude that Think Progress is making a huge issue over a student created entry into a competition. While I never claimed Atlas was impartial, I fail to see how its biases relate to the student’s project itself.

The project wasn’t a coordinated attack on the FCC’s plan, and further, it wasn’t even that good of a project. I still consider this something that Think Progress jumped on far too quickly, without proper investigation, and the fact it spread like wildfire across several similar sites is, for me at least, some indication of the media’s gullible conspriacy-oriented nature.

Jordan Richardson May 14, 2010 at 8:29 pm

“I fail to see how its biases relate to the student’s project itself.”

It’s not so much a matter of biases as it is a matter of motivations. The idea behind Atlas is to create and promote a particular “free market” ideology, couched particularly with the notion of “rebranding” a host of these sorts of issues. They’ve rebranded global warming, for instance, with the help of Exxon dollars.

“The project wasn’t a coordinated attack on the FCC’s plan”

I’d argue that was the project’s intention, especially considering the notion of the Grover Norquist meetings and how this “student project” clashes with those meetings. As the article on Think Progress notes, Norquist “parroted” the same talking points from the presentation and from other front groups.

To suggest that there is no connection is, I think, a little irresponsible and a little naive. The nature of the media in general is to report stories using information as they come in, so to NOT report on the connections here would have been irresponsible. To assume or consider this to merely be some innocent student project, as though it was put together by doe-eyed third graders, is rather simplistic – especially given the track record of the associated groups for having been down these roads before.

So it isn’t really a matter of gullibility from where I sit. Regardless, for all intents and purposes, it’s better to be “gullible” than it is to be purposefully misleading. But to knock this story off as a mere “student project” takes, I think, a little of both.

Jordan Richardson May 14, 2010 at 9:10 pm

This actually caused me to remember another “student project” as relates to the Chicago Boys and General Pinochet in 1970s Chile. This group of about 25 economics students from the University of Chicago were effectively responsible for advising the General and had received much of their training in “free market capitalism” from Milton Friedman. Part of the idea put forth by these “students” was that repression was necessary to bring the Chilean economy into prosperity. Also, as Naomi Klein points out, it was necessary to “shock” the citizens so that they would accept neo-liberal economic principles.

Nothing about this story from TP suggests repression, but I think it’s a little foolish to simply dismiss the idea of a student project as being harmless – especially when one considers the Norquist connection and the fact that these students presented their stuff to the “Wednesday morning meeting.” That fact alone gives TP reason to investigate further, as these “Wednesday morning meetings” have grown to involve meetings in 48 states with key conservative activists.

Norquist was instrumental in drumming up early support for George W. Bush, for example, and has considerable Washington influence. His Americans for Tax Reform group is involved with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The group essentially served as a “conduit” for funds that Abramoff stole from a slew of Indian casinos in 2006.

The point of all of this is to say that there’s a reason TP took the, in your opinion, “gullible” road here. There’s a reason they reported on this and it’s a good reason. Given the history of the involved parties and of similar “student projects” such as these, not reporting on these connections to blocking net neutrality would have been irresponsible and wrong. The fact is that there is a massive corporate effort to block net neutrality and it’s NOT a conspiracy, either. It’s happening right in front of our faces.

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