AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other major telecommunication giants have been caught out in attempting to fool their customers into supporting legislation changes in net neutrality laws, through misleading email applications, as reported by The Verge.
The hubbub surrounds the The Title II Net Neutrality Act, introduced in 2015, which stops Internet service providers from providing preferential internet speed and access to the highest bidder. Some of the biggest tech giants like Google, Facebook & Twitter organized ¨Day of action¨ protests involving approximately 10 million internet users, to protest plans announced by the new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, that would allow internet providers like AT&T and Verizon to block or slow down internet traffic to whatever sites or platforms they see fit.
On first appearances AT&T seemed to be onside with the ‘Day of action’ protesters, after posting a banner on its website proclaiming “AT&T supports an open internet, tell Congress to adopt permanent protections”, releasing a Direct TV advert following a similar thread, and directing users to a link to fill in their personal information and send pre-set emails to the FCC & Congress.
However, on closer inspection, it was revealed that the pre-set emails included messages like:
“No one could reasonably argue that the public would benefit from a more restrictive, less open internet. In this Information Age we live in, the internet is a vital tool that helps individuals, families and entire communities thrive
There is a right way and a wrong way to preserve the concept of an open internet. I am in favor of protecting the open internet with legislation.”
Affected by the notion portrayed by the headline message on AT&T website, many internet users would be led to believe that they’d be sending those emails to stop the FCC from going on with their announced plans. However, the truth is that these messages will be sending a motion of consent to the announced plans to the congress and legislators on behalf of the users.
Other ISP´s joined the fight against net neutrality, like Centurylink when they stated that ¨Reversing the FCC’s 2015 Internet regulation order will do several positive things: Increase customer choice, spur innovation and investment, [and] create lasting consumer and competitive protections,¨ according to Ars Technica.
Lobby group USTelecom, of which AT&T and Verizon are members, argues against pro-neutrality activists by simply stating that it gets in the way of acquiring larger investments in market.
On the pro-neutrality front, there is the advocacy group Free Press, which lists the incidents when AT&T and Verizon have clearly broken the net neutrality conduct by, for example, blocking Google Wallet, blocking Skype and other VOIP services on the iPhone, as well as, blocking the use of FaceTime for users who don’t opt for a more expensive text-and-voice plan.
Kurt Walters, the campaign director for Demand Progress, one of the groups that leads the coalition commented to Recode that they might still lose the fight, despite the record breaking numbers of comments and protests. Kurt added that Pai has the power to remove the changes made during the Obama administration due to the acquisition of votes from a Republican-led agency.