I feel sorry for Mike McCurry. I really do.
As a George Washington University political communications student in the 1990's, I joined many in looking up to Mike McCurry as the best in our field. As a Democratic press staffer during the 2004 presidential campaign, I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard McCurry was jumping aboard the campaign to fight the good fight. The cavalry had arrived.
I still want to like Mike McCurry. But I can't right now because he's doing a truly awful thing. Not only is he serving as the mouthpiece for AT&T and other corporations who self-servingly want to end the free and open Internet as we know it, but he is committing the cardinal sin of any spokesperson: He is outright lying.
McCurry is co-chair of a front group set up by Internet operators like AT&T. These companies are spending millions lobbying Congress to destroy Network Neutrality--the First Amendment of the Internet--in the next few weeks.
As the New York Times editorialized today:
"Net neutrality" is a concept that is still unfamiliar to most Americans, but it keeps the Internet democratic. ... One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.
If Net Neutrality is gutted, Google, eBay, and YouTube either pay protection money to companies like AT&T or risk that their sites process slowly on your computer. Comcast could intentionally slow access to iTunes, steering Internet customers its own music service. And the little guy with the next big idea would be muscled out of the marketplace, relegated to the "slow lane" of the information superhighway.
This isn't just speculation -- it's already happened in places without Net Neutrality. Heck, AT&T's CEO blatantly announced, "The Internet can't be free."
That's why an Internet revolt has begun--a revolt that McCurry belittles. Folks as diverse as Craig from Craigslist, MoveOn, Gun Owners of America, Google, eBay, and Amazon are all fighting back. 350,000 people signed a petition demanding Congress preserve Internet freedom, over 2,000 blogs have rallied the public, and even some celebrities are chiming in.
Craig Fields from Gun Owners of America hit the target right-on when he said
"Whenever you see people on the far left and far right joining together about something Congress is getting ready to do, it's been my experience that what Congress is getting ready to do is basically un-American."
It's genuinely sad that Mike McCurry would use his credibility to harm a medium that's revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation, and free speech in our country.
But equally sad to those who once looked up to him, McCurry is lying. On HuffingtonPost.com, he wrote this about Net Neutrality:
The Internet has worked absent regulation and now you want to introduce it for a solution to what? What content is being denied? What service is being degraded? What is not right with the Internet that you are trying to cure?
This is not just a lie -- it's a double-lie.
Lie #1: McCurry knows the Internet is not "absent regulation" yet he's willing to deceive the public if it helps his clients. As Matt Stoller points out on MyDD:
What McCurry did not tell the public was that during the Clinton years, the FCC actively enforced net neutrality -- the Internet's First Amendment -- against his telecom clients. Common carrier statutes have in fact been a bedrock principle of telecommunications law since 1934, and in 1996 Congress ratified that with a commitment to network neutrality.
Mike McCurry has a moral obligation to everyone who has ever respected him and looked up to him to answer this question: Do you stand by your statement that the Internet is "absent regulation?" Or do you admit that, like so many parts of our American economy, the Internet does have rules?
Lie #2: McCurry asks: What is not right with the Internet that you are trying to cure?
McCurry is trying to spin the public into believing that someone other than his clients is proposing a radical change to the Internet. But McCurry knows full well a dirty little secret -- just 9 months ago, in August 2005, the long-standing principle of Net Neutrality was eviscerated by a Republican-dominated FCC in a case brought by telecom companies like those McCurry represents!
The Online Reporter carried this headline, "Telcos freed from FCC broadband regulations." The article began:
The FCC said that phone companies such as Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, Qwest and other local telcos will no longer be regulated by traditional telephone rules when it comes to their DSL broadband services. The FCC agreed unanimously to classify DSL broadband as an "information service" rather than a telephone service. Phone companies will no longer be required to open their broadband networks to access by third-party ISPs.
After a one-year transition period, the phone companies can arbitrarily end any agreements they were forced to make with independent ISPs.
In other words, the FCC re-wrote the definitions to exclude telecom companies from our nation's telecom laws! And we are now 9 months into a 12-month period, at the end of which a radical shakeup of the Internet will take place. Mike McCurry knows that the free and open Internet most Americans think is the "status quo" is actually GONE in 3 months.
So it's more than a little bit deceptive when McCurry asks, "What service is being degraded? What is not right with the Internet that you are trying to cure?" McCurry is implying the exact opposite of what he knows to be true.That's a lie, and it's a genuinely sad sight for those who once admired him.
The only way to protect Net Neutrality is for Congress to take action now, as it re-writes our nation's telecom laws. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) have introduced legislation to do this. Mike McCurry and his clients like AT&T are fighting it tooth and nail.
If you are outraged, don't just sit there. First comment below, but then take these steps:
1. SIGN a Net Neutrality petition to Congress:
2. CALL Congress now:
3. BLOG about this issue, or put our "Save the Internet" logo on your Web site:
4. MYSPACE: Add "Save the Internet" as a friend:
5. WRITE A LETTER to Congress:
6. VISIT our coalition Web site for more information, SavetheInternet.com:
After we save the Internet, we can all celebrate -- and Mike McCurry will have lots of time to think about his once-admirers that are so very much let down.