Here Are 3 Ways Verizon Is Bankrolling The Permanent Death Of Net Neutrality
Money and corruption in politics is something all Americans begrudgingly accept in our modern political landscape.
And yet, how many of us actually know how this system works? Are people literally in dark rooms shaking hands over cigars and expensive bourbon? Who cuts the checks?
Turns out, it's much simpler than that, and it's all 100% legal.
Today, we'll show you three ways how money transfers from the bank accounts of companies like Verizon into the pockets of politicians in exchange for looser regulations that will earn them more profits.
And we'll show you how they're using this system in an attempt to keep net neutrality dead forever.
1) Money in the media
First, we'll look at media. Let's start with an example.
Meet Craig Silliman, the Executive Vice President for Public Policy and General Council of Verizon. We've never met him, but he strikes us as a nice enough guy on the surface.
He seems very likable from the video and what he says is laid out in a logical, easy-to-understand way, but the folks at The Verge didn't seem to agree.
"Silliman says a bunch of things that are just flatly not true. "
-Nilay Patel, The Verge
The principles behind net neutrality–open/free-flowing access, no tolls or barriers, and no blocking–are based on a long legal history of precedents ranging from electricity and railroads in the twentieth century all the back to roads and harbors in Reformation England in the eighteenth century.
Title II, common carrier, net neutrality. It's all the same thing as far as we consumers are concerned.
Why treat the Internet differently than any other public utility if we believe that the Internet is indeed a public utility?
But nonetheless, videos like the one above were created and are promoted specifically to help the opponents of net neutrality shape the perception of the public in favor of their agenda*.
(*Believe me.... the irony isn't lost on us that we bring up this point as a Super PAC ourselves in an article written in part to shape the perception of the public in favor of net neutrality.)
This video and others like it are carefully crafted to confuse the public about net neutrality and turn them against outcomes that would support their own interests.
Some of this propaganda has gone so far as to employ semantically empty, yet politically-charged terms like "Obamacare for the Internet" in an attempt to polarize the issue further.
Fake news around net neutrality is incredibly real.
2) Money In Congress
Next up... how does money get from Verizon to Congress?
Last year, Silliman donated $4,999.80 of his own funds to Verizon PAC, which is a different organization altogether than the legal entity most people think of when they hear Verizon – that's technically Verizon Communications, Inc.
Verizon PAC is a political action committee and lobbyist authorized by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to raise money from U.S. voters and organizations and spend the money on politically-related expenses like campaign donations.
Yep... Silliman put nearly $5k of his own money into advocating for pro-Verizon issues last year. That's just $.20 shy of the maximum individual annual contribution to a PAC.
And he wasn't alone. Nearly 800 additional high-ranking officials and employees at Verizon and its affiliates and subsidiaries donated over three-quarters of a million dollars to Verizon PAC in 2017.
All of it is fully visible for the public to see and none of it seems to be inconsistent with what is considered completely acceptable and normal in the United States today.
As a Super PAC for the people, America's Internet has a long way to go if it wants to compete financially with the machine that is Verizon PAC. These numbers are staggering:
What exactly does Verizon PAC do with the money? Good question.
Since January 1, 2017, Verizon PAC has spent over a million dollars in contributions to political campaigns, parties, and other political action committees.
They appear to be very generous across the board with money going to Republicans and Democrats alike. So far in 2018, they have given to both major parties and have donated to two individual Republican candidates as they gear up for the 2018 election season, Taylor in Texas and Cramer in North Dakota.
It's what investors would call a diversified portfolio with a few one-off specific investments:
3) Money In The Courts
The judicial system is another place for Verizon and others to spend their time and money.
(This time, we'll try to find an example that doesn't involve Craig Silliman.)
Many states and cities have begun passing their own net neutrality laws since the federal repeal back in December. This doesn't sit well with Verizon because they just scored their major victory in the FCC. Having to deal with state or city regulations could end up being more complicated and costly to Internet service providers than if net neutrality was the law across the land.
This week, a group called USTelecom threatened to start suing states and cities that try to implement their own net neutrality rules.
"...we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible."
-Jonathan Spalter, CEO of USTelecom
Ok, so you're probably thinking, "Who's USTelecom?" Again, good question.
USTelecom is a for-profit corporation that describes themselves as the "nation's leading trade association representing and promoting the interests of its members, broadband service providers and suppliers for the telecom industry."
Membership dues depend on the revenue of each member. Based on Verizon's $126B revenue in 2017, USTelecom's membership dues calculator suggests that Verizon pays around $5.9M to be a member every single year.
Basically, USTelecom is the result of Verizon and the rest of the industry chipping in to create an incredibly well-funded legal force whose only job is to make sure the profits keep flowing to the entire industry.
An oligopoly with a legal team.
And wouldn't you know it, Mr. Craig Silliman is on the board of directors of USTelecom.
Why Aren't People In Jail?
If any of this seems crooked, illegal, or wrong in any way, it's not.
You may even think Silliman and others are acting unethically. They're not.
In reality, they're just really good at what they do and are being paid by their shareholders to maximize return on investment.
They're just doing their job and have truly created a brilliant and comprehensive strategy for making sure that net neutrality stays dead forever in the process.
I mean, you've got to hand it to them.
They were able to completely dismantle net neutrality in the Executive branch of our government; they are working through the Legislative and Judicial branches in the present; and they continue to innovate on their hyperbole in the media, which is working to divide the public on what used to be a non-partisan issue.
They are working it each and every day with the same passion, pride, and commitment that would make our Founding Fathers proud.
We might not like what they are doing to the Internet, but if we don't like what's going on, we can't fault Silliman and others. We have to change the system.
In other words, don't hate the players. Hate the game.
What Can We The People Do?
It's a little difficult to know what to do after taking all of this in.
It's tempting to throw our hands up in the air and admit that we've been defeated.
Or we can take a stand.
The Internet wasn't created by Verizon.
It was created by the U.S. Government.
It was funded by taxpayers.
It is a public utility in the same way that phones, roads, gas lines, electricity, railroads, and water pipes are public utilities.
The Internet belongs to us.
And if anything is true in 2018, it's that money can only be overcome by voices. Millions of them.
Tell him or her that you want the Internet to be treated like a public utility.
Tell them that you want them to overturn the FCC's decision to repeal the 2015 Open Internet Order.
And tell them that you want Open Internet legislation that mandates net neutrality forever.