Anti Net Neutrality Lobbyists Will Stop At Nothing

Why Phone and Cable Companies Want to Kill the Internet’s Most Democratic Right

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons

Lobbyists representing phone and cable companies have now reorganized and doubled down on disinformation campaigns. They are crying censorship against advocates who want to preserve the built-in democracy of the Internet that guarantees everyone a voice.

After all, corporations are people, folks. Therefore, net neutrality advocates are interfering with these large companies free speech rights.

Industry-funded think tanks have argued that any enforceable effort to protect the open Internet denies phone and cable companies their First Amendment right “by compelling them to convey content providers’ messages with which they may disagree.”


This specious argument asserts that these large companies are de facto editors of Internet content and in that role they should be able to delimit the free speech of the rest of us. News flash: they are not the “owners” of the Internet.

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon announce its new rules. Will the Internet be re-established as a common carrier, like all other public utilities, or will it allow large corporations own the Internet, charging more for privileged “fast lanes” (a cost to be passed on to consumers) and relegating the rest of us to wobbly “slow lanes” or no lane at all because your content has been censored?

Here is what you need to know . . .

Returning the Internet to the widely used common-carrier standard is what these industry types fear most. It’s a fear that has reached a fever pitch after an overwhelming majority of the public urged the FCC to protect real Net Neutrality and reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

“Are your phone lines censored? Are enterprise lines censored? Are mobile voice services censored? All of these are common carriers. We need the same assurances with our Internet communications.” (Marvin Ammori, a First Amendment scholar and Internet policy consultant, Washington, D.C.)

Any two-way communications network that serves the public is not supposed to block, degrade or otherwise unreasonably discriminate in the transmission of the content it carries across its networks.

Why do we so often champion net neutrality? Believing as we do that all oppression and coercive systems by governments, corporations, and religious hierarchies stand in the way of economic and social justice (and peace), it is important that the powerless always have an unhindered voice. Human rights deserve, need, our active protection whether pertaining equality rights, sexual freedom, the environment, immigration, etc., and the end of all war and racism. For more, check out our related manifesto.

What’s your issue? What do you feel passionately about? Let us know what you are doing. If you are just going to sit there, get up and get busy, okay?



Edelman’s Lisa Manley, Climate Change Activist

Lisa Manley is a Corporate Social Responsibility Executive with Edelman, one of the largest Public Relations firms. She has 20 years of experience in global sustainability strategy and engagement, and recently offered “Five Observations from UN Climate Week.” It gives us a bird-eye view of the outcomes from a business point of view.

Manley was inspired by all the events that took place over a week ago, including the People’s Climate March that drew more than 300,000 environmental activists. She acknowledges how lackluster the outlook has been since 2009’s disappointing climate conference in Copenhagen but points out several take-aways from this year’s Summit in New York, suggesting high hopes for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris next year. “Optimism is on the rise,” is her perspective.

Hewlitt-Packard's Gabi Zedlmayer at "Leader's vision for a low carbon economy" NYC Climate Week 2014 Flickr/creative commons

Hewlitt-Packard’s Gabi Zedlmayer at “Leader’s vision for a low carbon economy” NYC Climate Week 2014
Flickr/creative commons

Manley asserts “partnership is the new leadership” by citing promising new collaborations of businesses and governments, such as We Mean Business and RE100, and The World Bank global efforts building a coalition among businesses and governments to support carbon pricing.

Manley goes on to say that “business has new and compelling voices in the dialogue” noting that 100 CEOs attended this year’s Summit. She highlights Apple’s Tim Cook who believes that innovation induces economic growth, particularly in the area of renewable energy.”

“Our cities are likely where the change happen fastest,” says Manley, believing that as we look forward to Paris’s UNFCCC next year the focus will shift from nation states to what can be accomplished by major cities.

The world’s architects are leading the way with impressive commitments to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) of urban areas by changing how buildings and cities are planned, designed and constructed. For instance, at the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress in August 2014, member organizations representing over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries unanimously adopted the 2050 Imperative — a declaration to eliminate CO2 emissions in the built environment by 2050. This is a significant commitment, considering urban areas generate 70 percent of all GHGe, mostly from buildings. Looking ahead to 2035 (and accounting for population growth and expected human migration), 75 percent of the built environment will be either new or renovated.

Manley concludes, “communication and engagement are critical as we continue to pave the path forward.” She brings to our attention an inspirational film shown to world leaders at the opening of the UN Summit, WHAT’S POSSIBLE, demonstrating that “climate change is solvable — but engagement and action are essential.” She notes that “two years ago, the NYC climate summit sparked 1 million social shares, last year it was 2 million and this year it was 83 million!

Continuous dialogue, commitments and follow-through will be crucial to motivate citizens and stakeholders as we build alignment by mid-century around paths for zero emissions. This week certainly provided a vital spark of optimism that we must maintain to achieve the success needed at climate summits in Lima, then in Paris and beyond. The impacts, challenges and opportunities of climate change are evolving in the hearts and minds of citizens around the world, opening doors of opportunity for continued communication and engagement.

Full article available here. Talk to your family and friends and the business you work for. Find out what you can do in your own community to make it greener. Redouble your efforts to reverse the destruction of planet earth. Okay?


Stop, hey, what’s that sound?

(photo by Chris Boland) Stephen Stills / Crosby, Stills and Nash - Glastonbury - 2009 Flickr/creative commons

(photo by Chris Boland)
Stephen Stills / Crosby, Stills and Nash – Glastonbury – 2009
Flickr/creative commons

Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look. What’s goin’ down?
(“What It’s Worth” chorus, 1966, lyrics or listen)

This song was written in 1966 by Stephen Stills of Crosby, Sills, & Nash fame. They recorded it and performed it thousands of times although it was first performed by Buffalo Springfield that year. The song quickly became an anthem for all those working on numerous fronts of the global struggle for human rights (in the 60s that meant the end of war and environmental protection). This song is still ranked #63 on Rolling Stone’s list of the The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, by the way.

The song’s universal appeal was practically instant even though it was actually inspired by local Los Angeles rock fans protesting the imposition of a 10 PM curfew on the entertainment area on Sunset Boulevard, known as the Sunset Strip — you know, to keep the ruckus down. At the time, Buffalo Springfield and other bands were performing there at places like Whiskey A Go Go and Pandora’s Box. But its origins didn’t matter because it struck a chord, a truth, something that everyone on the planet could recognize.

There’s somethin’ happenin’ here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun, over there
Tellin’ me I got to beware
(“What It’s Worth” first verse, 1966, lyrics or listen)

The young anti-war counter-cuture that emerged following the end of World War II embraced many Crosby, Sills, & Nash’s songs, but “What It’s Worth” was unique in that it so well described the educational challenges inherent in any struggle for any cause, from peace and the environment to immigration/voting/equality/human-rights, etc., even to lift an unjust curfew.

There’s battle lines bein’ drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speakin’ their minds, once again
Gettin’ so much resistance from behind
(“What It’s Worth” second verse, 1966, lyrics or listen)

Take for example our recent and highly successful People’s Climate March, with a follow-up Flood Wall Street sit-in quite publicly demanding corporate environmental responsibility. And, many of us are encouraged by this week’s Climate Summit at the United Nations and the specific commitments outlined by President Obama. Taken together, all three of these events can perhaps lift spirits but their impact in conveying the urgency of this issue will only be measured by how fast and how hard we work, redoubling our efforts to educate our family members, work mates, and community — everyone in our sphere of influence.

H M Cotterill Flickr/creative commons

H M Cotterill
Flickr/creative commons

As we pointed out last week with this photo, time is the only commodity that can’t be recycled, so we have to do everything today to make the world a better place. Once, having envisioned a perfected future, there exists an imperative, an obligation, to materialize that vision.

Protests, rallies, meetings, summits, pamphlets, posters, banners, and speeches will only take us so far. Surely these are useful in recruiting new allies to any cause, but what will really harness the power of all the people, or at least a healthy majority, to not budge until change comes about?

Capturing the planet-at-large will require the most creative explosion of public engagement and education that we have ever seen, an expression of non-violent civil disobedience on a global scale.

Central to this effort must be the fact that climate change is already upon us. Therefore, we must move away from the elemental proof or disapproval of its causes — a never ending battle with the naysayers, a red herring. We are long over that debate.

The destruction of ocean habitats, the rising sea levels, the increasing scarcity and privatization of water, and much more, are factual realities that we are being forced to reckon with, and this can only be done through worldwide harmony. The alternative is death. People arguing against protecting our environment are akin to those in some parts of this country who will not put out your house fire unless your taxes are up to date. They don’t look at the big picture, either on purpose or because they are incapable of normal cogitation.

One of the things everyone in the world does understand, however, is the power of money, what gets spent on what, and what are the expressed priorities at any given point. We have to encourage the growth of financial divestment coalitions already in existence among universities, pension funds, venture capitalists, foundations, and corporate boards of directors. We must draw them away from technologies that have no future such as fossil fuels, the meat industry, and the privatization of water resources, and away from state regimes that hurt their population. While we cringe when we see corporations use their newly assigned personal rights to take away the rights of others (limiting their female employees’s personal birth control choices, for example), we must also recognize that without people, without customers, there are no corporations. We hold a mighty power to shape corporations by using global non-violent civil disobedience to both raise awareness/educate and reap new commitments to the people’s issues by getting powerful entities to champion our cause.

We are beginning to see this happen, and our duty is to hurry along this process. Time is all we have.


 For more on how progress happens, click here.

McDonald’s Corporation on the hook

McDonald’s NLRB joint employer ruling

Yesterday’s ruling gives litigants and activists alike a bigger target, and a big boost for fast-food workers’ rights everywhere. 

We like to catalog progress when we see it.

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finally came to its senses by ruling that McDonald’s Corporation could no longer avoid complaints from its workers by asserting that they were not responsible for what goes on in their franchised stores, the vast majority of its 14,000 restaurants. This single ruling gives renewed hope and power to dozens of court cases to end unfair labor practices, and to fast-food workers everywhere demanding higher hourly wages.

[C]ompanies have sought to distance themselves from the pay protests by saying they don’t determine wages at its franchised locations.

Besides low wages, McDonald’s employees are imposed on in so many inhumane ways, such as showing up on time only to be asked to wait around on site before clocking in (and being paid) so the restaurant can maintain the company’s closely monitored ratio of labor costs as a percentage of sales.

Activists and labor organizers have always believed that these companies must be accountable because it controls every aspect of how the restaurants are run and how their employees are trained. Now the NLRB agrees with the workers. From now on McDonald’s and other fast-food companies with franchises, such as KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, will be fully liable for all of its management practices.  

Heather Smedstad, senior vice president of human resources for McDonald’s USA, said in a phone interview that the company has never been determined to be a joint employer in the past and that it would fight the decision by the labor board.

“This is such a radical departure that it should be a concern to business men and women across the country,” she said.


The International Franchise Association also opposes the NLRB ruling, focusing on municipalities that go ahead and enact higher minimum wages (for example, Seattle’s $15.15/hour) and how this hurts these “small businesses.”

Conservative lawmakers, who haven’t allowed a rise in the minimum wage for 5 years, still contend that the market should decide wages and link them to productivity. They have a right to this opinion but not the facts: if wages had been linked to productivity for the last 20 years, the minimum wage would be not $8, not $10, not $15, but $22/hour. Productivity has steadily risen, as have corporate profits, but workers haven’t benefited.

Taxpayers have been bearing the burden of these sub-standard wages because those at the bottom of the pay scale use more government resources, like food stamps, to make ends meet. That means that taxpayers like you and me are subsidizing big companies and complicit in keeping these wages so low.

Not so ironically, minimum wage hikes actually raise the number of jobs created throughout the community because higher wages are spent immediately on necessities and stimulate the entire local economy.

Minimum wage workers rights throughout the country deserve this ruling from the NLRB which protects them from draconian labor practices and assures every worker is getting a living wage.



Supreme Court: Don’t F#ck it up

Congressional Clarity: Americans United, Allies Deliver Briefing on Hobby Lobby Suit

“Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Hobby Lobby, employers would be able to privilege their religious convictions over their employees’ – something we consider to be an egregious distortion of the principle of religious liberty” — Litigation Counsel, Greg Lipper, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

A robust national debate has been going on leading up to the soon-to-be ruling from this session of the Supreme Court regarding the standing of a corporation’s religious liberty, (in this case, Hobby Lobby) with respect to its employees’ access to birth control has been mired in the plaintiff’s misinformation and misdirection. This week, Lipper was joined by others, including  Sara Hutchinson of Catholics for Choice, Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association, and Nancy Kaufmann of the National Council of Jewish Women,  tried their best to brief Congress on the potential consequences of a Hobby Lobby victory for real religious liberty, and lay the ground work for legislative rescue should this the court rule in favor of Hobby Lobby.

4156193126_f2ac736727_bSince the court has previously ruled that corporations have “personal” rights, the fate of this case is worrisome.

Hutchinson said, “those consequences would be profoundly negative for most Americans,” adding that organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops do not represent popular support despite its claims to the contrary.

“We firmly believe that contraception coverage protects women.”

“Catholics believe that women’s conscience rights deserve respect.”

Kaufmann reinforced the point.

“[A Hobby Lobby victory] would undermine a woman’s religious liberty to make a faith-informed decision about birth control.”

. . . [P]eople of color, who tend to be low-income as a result of racial inequalities, would be “disproportionately” affected by a ruling that limited contraception access.

“We hope the courts uphold the religious liberty of all people”

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons

Speckhardt spoke up for the rights of non-theists.

“True religious liberty must include the option to be non-religious . . .”
“It must not be used by those abusing it for partisan agendas.”

Religious minorities would be burdened by a Hobby Lobby victory, Speckhardt asserted, and he cited concerns that employers could deny access to other necessary medical procedures if religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act are broadened.


The effort to define religious liberty is sure to continue no matter what the verdict, but activists in every other arena would do well to understand the importance of religious liberty for all as a pillar of civil rights because it affects everything.