The signs of increasing desperation in the war of words over the Stevens Bill reached a new low. As reported by Matt Stoller Stevens has released the results of this push poll purporting to show that the majority of voters are interested in cable, not network neutrality, and would prefer to get the Bell video franchising bill passed without net neutrality provisions attached.
As one might imagine, the collective herd of domesticated sheep we call “mainstream media,” to the extent they have covered this at all, have accepted the poll as a useful indicator despite the obviously biased way in which the poll phrases the questions. Nevertheless, I still find it interestersting that when asked whether they preferred “the benefits of new TV and video choice so consumers will see increased competition and lower prices” or “enhancing network neutrality by barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services like higher speed and greater security,” 19% of respondents still said enhancing network neutrality was more important (although only 7% of respondents reported they had heard what net neutrality was before they were contacted by the pollster). Only 66% of respondents said they preferred getting TV competition and all its supposed wonders rather than the supposed evils of network neutrality.
In other words, despite the most sophisticated efforts to stack the deck, nearly 20% of people exposed to the concept of network neutrality still support it. Even when you describe it as limiting the ability of telcos and cablecos to provie you with specialized services, 19% of people so distrust the phone and cable cos that they would rather “suffer” (as described by the poll question) and have enhanced network neutrality than cable competition.
Which explains why the pro-NN movement has proven so succesful at organizing. Fighting the mainstream media blackout is tough, and the telcos and cable cos are doing their best to poison the water with impossibly lame advertising. But people still don’t trust the cable cos and telcos to have carte blanch over the internet. Once you explain stuff to them, their usual reaction is “you mean I wouldn’t be able to download whatever I want, no way!” “You mean my homemade video will download more slowly than some big company’s because they pay extra, no way!”
A few months back, I was doing a panel on network neutrality at Lynnewood University. A young woman from the university was there to videotape it for their archive. After the panel, she came up to me and said “I had never heard of this before your panel and I hadn’t really cared. Now I’m really concerned. How can I get involved? Where can I send my friends to find out more about this?”
That’s the kind of reaction that scares supporters of the anti-net neutrality legislation. The longer this issue stays out there, the more people find out about it, the more the movement to restore real network neutrality rules grows. So they resort to what they always do, try to control the information flow and run bogus news to convince you that everybody else wants this bill to pass, and there is something wrong with you if you don’t want it to pass. “Why do you hate competition?” They ask? “Why do you love big government? ” “Do you wants the terrorists to win?” “Watch the mainstream news, if this were really an issue they’d report it, wouldn’t they? Don’t listen to those radicals and communists and free riders like Google who want to use our pipes for free. Nobody else cares,or think like you do. Do you want people to think you’re out of the mainstream!?” “Ignore the man behind the curtain manipulating the data, we are the great and powerful mainstream telling you what to think!”
Heck, it’s a strategy that has always worked before. Too bad the openess of the internet has made it so difficult to control the information flow. Why, anyone can check out the arguments and see the underlying data for themselves. But if the cable cos and telcos can make these tactics work just one more time on this issue, they won’t have to worry about that pesky internet and democracy anymore. With government blessing, they can convert the internet from a medium supporting civic discourse and citizen journalism to one, big happy online mall and cinemaplex.
Which is why we keep hearing that network neutrality has no support and is in its last throes. Competing Bell video services offered under national franchises will be greeted by consumers as liberators. And, according to the FCC, we can give a big “mission accomplished” to our national deployment of broadband.
Heck, it’s worked before, right?
Stay tuned . . . .