Has CA Public Utilities Commission Jumped on the 'Media Reform' Astroturf Bandwagon?

The media reform cabal is at it again. The same professional Soros-funded astroturfers who brought us Van Jones to demand "media justice" and SaveTheInternet and Net Neutrality have been focused on a new target. For months now, Free Press, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge, Consumers Union, and the New America Foundation have been thwarting the proposed merger of cell phone providers AT&T and T-Mobile, saying the move would raise prices for consumers and cost jobs. As the deal sits with the FCC, which just this week temporarily halted its review of the proposal, AT&T and T-Mobile have tried to reassure consumers and activists that the merger would lower prices, increase access to service in rural areas and give consumers better choices. The AFL-CIO, which represents 42,000 AT&T workers through the CWA, agrees with AT&T and T-Mobile. Ironically, that puts the country's most powerful labor federation on the opposite side of its progressive media reform allies.



But as these supposed media reformers actively work with community groups and state and federal agencies to oppose corporate interests on behalf of consumers, they fail to divulge their own ties to competitive corporate interests. And now, there are reports that a state commission may also have played a role in helping the competition.

As Amanda Carey has detailed at The Daily Caller, these Net Neutrality advocates have a long history of opposing these very companies, with the support of corporate competitors.


There is, and has been, a growing coalition advocating for media reform. But when the dots are all connected, what is left is far from a grassroots campaign. In reality, it’s a web of players advocating for corporate interests, coordinated by a public affairs specialist.

Within weeks of its announcement, media reform groups teamed up on a new "grassroots" initiative to fight the proposed telecom merger, complete with its very own website, NoTakeover.org. Notice the website's fine print? "This site was developed with the support of Sprint."

That's right, Sprint. Do you smell Astroturf?

The activity and its funding is especially notable in light of an incident that occurred earlier this week. Politico reports that Sprint customers received an unsolicited text message notifying them of a public hearing with the California Public Utilities Commission, another entity that's been recruited to review the proposed merger.
Some Californians were baffled to receive a text from Sprint this week reading “SprintFreeMsg: Public hearings on Proposed AT&T / T-Mobile merger July 21, 25, 27 in Culver City, San Diego, Fresno. More info at www.cpuc.ca.gov/merger” Was this a case of Sprint telling its customers to go lobby against the deal at public hearings held by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which is reviewing the acquisition?

That's a good question. It would certainly appear that CPUC is coordinating with Sprint.

Politico goes on to state:
It turns out the origin of the message was the state commission itself, which drafted it and asked Sprint to send it. “Doing the texts messages was one of the ways we thought would reach the exact audience we are trying to reach, but we wanted to be sure there was no cost because we realize the text is unsolicited,” said a commission spokeswoman. A Sprint spokesman said the company has received a couple of complaints about the texts. Kate Hennigan, a Sprint customer who works for the city of Los Angeles, said she received the message this morning but “didn’t care.” For its part, AT&T has got the word out about the hearings through notices in 80 newspapers in 10 languages, said a spokesman.

So, a state entity, by its own admission, has in fact coordinated with Sprint to send out the unsolicited text message – an action that violates Sprint's own Customer Privacy Policy. Various state and federal laws of course also prohibit cell phone providers from sending unsolicited text messages to a recipient unless there is an already established business relationship. In this case, Sprint may be facilitating the distribution of the message, but the content actually comes from a third party, the CPUC, which in most cases likely does not have a relationship with Sprint's customers. Did the CPUC or Sprint break any laws with this action? Did the commission request that AT&T and T-Mobile send the same message to their customers as well, or were those companies left to rely only upon their newspaper announcements?

If this turns out to be the case, how can this commission render an unbiased judgment if they are already secretly collaborating with one side?

Ironically, many of the same media reform activists argued the stance in 2007 that "the decision of what kinds of speech a customer hears should be left to the customer and not to their wireless carrier." Will these so-called public interest groups condemn the actions of CPUC and Sprint?

In the days and weeks to follow, it will be interesting to see if the CPUC members who coordinated with Sprint recuse themselves from the review and decision making process.

In addition, CREDO Mobile, the progressive phone company and subsidiary of Working Assets co-founded by Drummond Pike, is a mobile virtual network operator that resells Sprint, and uses its platform to conduct a wide variety of political activism campaigns through text messaging. CREDO lobbied the FCC just recently, urging the agency to deny AT&T / T-Mobile's petition.
The proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile will have a deleterious effect on competition and consumers, and render it difficult to succeed with business models like that of CREDO Mobile, Inc. [snip] CREDO’s customers, who rely on innovations in the wireless arena to connect them with both mobile devices and service and with sophisticated tools for charitable giving, will be hard hit.

Charitable giving? Let's not forget that CREDO, whose slogan is "fight the right wing with every call you make," has long been exploiting the Tea Party to help grease the skids for this AT&T fight.


"CREDO would never give a dime to the Tea Party. When you join CREDO, you’ll join a movement dedicated to defeating right-wing radicalism. [see "CREDO Action site]

That's a platform for enabling political attacks, not "charitable giving." I'm all for fair competition, but let's at least stop pretending that propaganda comes only from one side of the political spectrum, shall we? Perhaps it's time to start asking some questions of Sprint, the California Public Utilities Commission and the so-called "media reform" activists.

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