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Thursday, March 10, 2005

TELETRUTH ALERT

If you care about broadband, the Internet, Wi-Fi and wireless,
municipalities wiring cities, the cost of phone service, VOIP, open
access to content, or anything else related to your Digital Future,
you need to read this.

Then check out the materials and take actions to call for
investigations.
You've already been harmed.

WHAT'S BEHIND THE CURTAIN: There is an underground network of
political deceit in the telecom and broadband industry. It is made up
of very well funded fake or co-opted consumer groups, research firms,
lobbying groups, politicians and PR firms throughout the United
States, that are out to fool reporters, state legislatures, Congress,
the public and the FCC that they represent the public interest.

In fact, many are controlled or have been co-opted through Sam Simon's
Issue Dynamics and paid for by SBC, Verizon, BellSouth and the other
phone and cable companies. The list of groups includes APT, TRAC,
USIIA, Connect USA, New Millennium Research Council, League of United
Latin American Citizens, and American Association of People With
Disabilities, among others

It is also the co-opting of well known groups, from the Gray Panthers
and NAACP, to the National Council of La Raza, the National Consumer
League and others.

Call it skunkworks, (the phone companies' black-ops groups) call it
astroturf, call it sock puppets, a consortium of groups -- run by
Issue Dynamics, includes a host of non-profits directly funded by the
Bell companies to wield undo influence --not in your favor. These
groups are do the bidding of the Bell companies, not you.

And the impacts? They have helped to raise your phone rates, they've
blocked fiber-optic and Wi-Fi initiatives in various states, they have
helped to close down investigations of wrong doing by the phone
companies, including audits of the companies showing customer
overcharging and cooked books, and have helped to put competitors out
of business.

The phone companies, through these groups, have also been able to
shape or control new state laws or public service commission actions,
as well as federal legislation and FCC actions.

They have, in essence, subverted the democratic process and stolen
your right to be properly represented -- and you should resent it. And
the sad part is that Washington insiders all know this is happening.
It's common knowledge in the Beltway, and they have not stepped in to
stop it.

Some examples:

1) Control of the FCC: Did you know that the FCC Consumer Advisory
Committee is mainly comprised of phone, cable and broadcast interests.
In the last session, 1/3 of the members are from the industry or their
associations. However, there were also 6 different groups tied to Sam
Simon and Issue Dynamics.This has helped to give the phone companies
control of the consumer interests at the FCC. It is the reason phone
bills are unreadable, or competitors are being put out of business or
sold off.

March 8th, 2005, the FCC announced the new members of this Committtee.
It
includes:

* Alliance for Public Technology, Daniel Phythyon: is Senior Vice
President, Law and Policy at the United States Telecom
Association ("USTA").
APT is funded by Verizon and BellSouth and SBC APT is run by
Sam
Simon's Issue Dynamics. Other members, still on the Committee,
also
have ties to Sam Simon and Issue Dynamics.
* National Association of Broadcasters, Sprint Corporation,
Time Warner,
T-Mobile, Verizon, Nextel Communications, Inc., Cellular
Telecommunications
and Internet Association, and Consumer Electronics
Association,

2) Raising Phone Rates: In 2000, the phone company coalition, known as
the "CALLs Coalition", got over 40 consumer groups who agreed to raise
the FCC Line Charge -- on every local phone bill in America --- from a
cap of $3.50 to $6.50. Issue Dynamics helped to run a campaign to make
consumer groups believe this increase was important and good for their
constituents, claiming it would lower long phone rates. --- It didn't
work for most Americans. Interestingly, almost all of the groups also
got grants from the phone companies.

* "Verizon has worked closely with the National Consumers League
(NCL) to
create and update consumer web pages explaining common
telecommunications
charges." Sam Simon is the current Chairman of the National
Consumer League.
The NCL is on the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee.
* Other groups backing this were NAACP, (an Issue Dynamics client
and on the
APT board) the National Hispanic Council on Aging and American
Association
of People with Disabilities, both on the APT board. All three
got grants and
donations from the Bell companies.

The FCC, in 2005, is currently proposing to raise this charge to
$10.00 --- and guess who they will listen to?

3) Wi-Fi and Municipalities -- Recently, Wi-Fi Network News and others
have outlined how Issue Dynamics, APT and the New Millennium Research
Council (a project of Issue Dynamics) have been issuing reports
bashing municipalities ability to offer broadband and Wi-Fi Internet
services. This data is being using in multiple states throughout the
US to make state legislatures vote against competition. Go to the site
to read more.

4) Harm to Competition and Broadband --- Questionable or co-opted
consumer groups have helped to give exclusive rights for broadband
networks to the phone companies -- SBC and Verizon. For example,
American's For a Digital Divide in 2001, with APT, were supporters of
the Bell broadband proposals that essentially harmed competitors. The
group included:

* World Institute on Disability, (Verizon's Foundation is a member
and Simon
is on the board), American Association of People With
Disabilities, (got
"major donations from both Verizon and the Verizon Foundation,
and put a
Verizon VP on its own board") and the National Association of
the Deaf, a
Sam Simon/Issue Dynamics' client.

5) TRAC and APT, with the help of fake and co-opted groups and bad
research, helped the phone companies enter the long distance markets,
as well as harm competitors.

* TRAC and APT helped Verizon and SBC enter the long distance
market, which
helped to put AT&T and MCI up for sale -- they couldn't compete.
Sam Simon
is founder of TRAC, APT is run by Issue Dynamics. TRAC, a
nonprofit, has
been running at a suspicious loss for years.
* Issue Dynamics got the Gray Panthers to go after MCI in a full
page
advertisement and staged fake rallies. They also enlisted the
United Church
of Christ for other attacks. APT and the United Church of Christ
work
together on projects including the "Everett C. Parker Ethics In
Telecommunications Lectures" (stop laughing.)

6) VOIP and Universal Service Fund (USF) --- APT has helped to create
the "Keep USF FAIR Coalition", with full page adds in USA Today, in
February 2005. In 2004, APT created the VOIP Coalition (Voice over the
Internet).
Both are filled with a mixture of the same players and their positions
are related to the phone companies' needs. For example, instead of
demanding an investigation into the problem-ridden Universal Service
Fund, this group wants what's fair for the phone companies ---
increase the USF, but leave it alone.

* Groups signed onto these campaigns include: APT, American
Association of
People with Disabilities, National Hispanic Council on Aging,
Telecommunications for the Deaf, TRAC, and World Institute on
Disability.

The list goes on and on. --- In some cases, these groups are merely
fronts for the phone companies interests. In other cases, we believe
they've been duped, co-opting authentic consumer groups for the phone
companies'
purposes. However, in ALL cases, the outcome has been to not
investigate the phone companies' behavior and sign on to Bell-friendly
activities that ended up with higher phone rates, a national lack of
fiber-based broadband, and harm to competition, as well as new threats
to the Wi-Fi rollout, municipalities offering services, or new
technologies, such as VOIP.

Let us be clear --- To date we have found no illegal acts. Also, many
of these groups have done great activities for the public interest.
And, we have no problem with non-profits taking money from a large
corporation to fund a public interest activity. However, when these
same groups vote and use their name to promote the activities of the
large corporation, especially when they do not fully disclose the
money received or fail to first consider the needs of their own
constituency, then the country should be outraged and these activities
investigated. While many groups will counter that the phone companies
only represent a percentage of their income, it is now clear that it
represents 100% of their favoritism on telecommunications and
broadband issues. Should they have nonprofit status?

Are they doing illegal-unethical acts?

TAKE ACTION:

A) Go to http://www.newnetworks.com/skunkworks101.html and learn more
--
Don't take our word for it. We've put links to articles and documents
by others, including TRAC's IRS financials, ties between groups, etc.

TAKE ACTION: http://www.newnetworks.com/takethefccback.html

B) Join us in our Complaint to Congress to investigate the FCC
Consumer Advisory Committee's board members. Read the government's
report questioning the FCC's Committee process. --- The new Committee,
announced March 8th, 2005 is still filled with phone companies and
astro-turfers.

C) Complain about nonprofit status and co-mingling of funds for
questionable
groups: Why are fake groups, research firms, etc. getting a free ride
as 501c3, nonprofit groups? Billions of dollars are at stake. Read the
IRS information about restrictions on lobbying.

D) Call for investigations of this problem --- This same scam is
happening in other industries as well, from the fake environmental
groups set up by the oil companies, to the astroturf groups designed
to torpedo health care reform. Read what others have been writing on
this.

Bruce Kushnick, Teletruth, bruce@teletruth.org Tom Allibone,
Teletruth, tom@teletruth.org

PS: Teletruth was a member of the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee in
2003-2004. We were not invited back in 2005.
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