Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry is deceiving the public, and its making my blood boil. With this Op-Ed in the Washington Times and this one on MyDD on behalf of the telco cartel, McCurry shows himself as either willfully dishonest in the debate over Internet freedom or just plain cluesless. Now, to be clear, working as a lobbyist for telecommunications companies is fine. As he explained in a comment on MyDD, he's just paying his mortgage. What's NOT fine is that he's misrepresenting the fight. McCurry is pretending to uphold the Clinton legacy on the internet.From MyDD:

I joined the effort opposing regulated net neutrality because, contrary to what you write, it's absolutely consistent with the Clinton Administration's policies toward the Internet. The Internet became a true mass-market medium during our eight years…These so-called "net neutrality" regulations would completely undercut this legacy.
And from the Washinton Times:
In my view, we're far better off continuing on the sound path the Clinton Administration established.
We agree we need to continue down the path of the Clinton/Gingrich years. So that’s not the issue. The issue is: Who in this debate stands on the side of the Clinton legacy of a free and open Internet where the little guy can turn a small idea into a big idea online? The giant telecom cartel? Not exactly. You see, what McCurry did not tell the public was that during the Clinton years, the FCC actively enforced net neutrality — the Internet’s First Amendment – against his telecom clients. Common carrier statutes have in fact been a bedrock principle of telecommunications law since 1934, and in 1996 Congress ratified that with a commitment to network neutrality. Yet less than a year ago, in August, 2005, the Clinton -Gingrich policy of enforced network neutrality was radically upended by the FCC:

The FCC said that phone companies such as Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, Qwest and other local telcos will no longer be regulated by traditional telephone rules when it comes to their DSL broadband services.  The FCC agreed unanimously to classify DSL broadband as an "information service" rather than a telephone service. Phone companies will no longer be required open their broadband networks to access by third-party ISPs.

After a one-year transition period, the phone companies can arbitrarily end any agreements they were forced to make with independent ISPs. During the transition year, the ISPs can attempt to negotiate new deals, but the cards are all in the hands of the telcos.

In other words, you know all that nice Clinton-Gingrich policy that made the internet work?  Yeah, after a one year transition period, that's gone, as a sort of sunset provision for the free internet sets.  This is incredibly sneaky.  What McCurry is doing is couching a radical change to the internet in the guise of the status quo.

McCurry knows that due to the actions of the industry he represents, we are in the waning months of the Clinton/Gingrich-era internet, where telcos are forced to treat everyone fairly. In three months, we won't be there anymore unless Congress passes Net Neutrality legislation. It's funny how the telcos want Congress to cement the FCC’s radical change to the Clinton/Gingrich era into the law while no one's looking – all while pretending others are advocating such radical change. And McCurry's treatment of this fact is simplistic and gallingly deceptive.

The Internet, now in its adolescence, is healthy and growing nicely. There is not even the slightest hint of illness... Having government now step in to administer treatments would be bad bureaucratic medicine.

That is absolutely false. The government did step in, a year ago, and the changes are going to take effect in three months. In other words, if we do not revert back to the Clinton-Gingrich policies that protected network neutrality, the free internet as we know it has three months to live.

Now, Mike McCurry is a nice and a smart guy, and I have a lot of respect for him and his communications skills. The problem is that here he's operating in bad faith. He might just be lying, or he might be just too clueless to know any better.  It doesn't really matter; McCurry just shouldn't be involved in public policy in this area.  Anyone who pretends that a massive giveaway to anti-competitive private interests is somehow a continuation of the status quo is not fit to responsibly create policy around something as vital as the internet.

Tags: Astroturf, Mike McCurry, net neutrality (all tags)

Comments

23 Comments

Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

The dude is a PR guy. That's his job: he is paid to lie as often and as believably as possible.

The issue here is obviously the truth of the claims. McCurry has claimed Clinton's policy was not to have net neutrality, you have now demonstrated that he is full of crap. But remember, facts won't ever even slow down a determined PR guy.

In the face of facts they continue to lie, claim the other person is 'misinformed' (i.e. HE was there, where were you?) and if people don't buy that they move to some other tactic such as character assassination (Dont have any skeletons in your closet? No problem, they'll just make them up!) or attacks on your style of debate or that you choose to do so on a Blog (no one who matters posts on a blog!) in an effort to devolve the debate into a he-said she-said shouting contest that makes outside observers just throw up their hands and disengage.

And that's the problem right there. Those of us who ingest a great deal of debate and rhetoric can tell the second someone uses these BS obfuscation tactics, but we represent a very very small portion of the voting public.

by TimThe Terrible 2006-04-25 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

I think we should be arguing this on the issues and weighing some of the points McCurry is making. Saying that McCurry can only believe what he does if he is "lying" or "clueless" seems really unnecessary.  Shouldn't Democrats be able to have genuine disagrements on particular policy issues without facing those kinds of accusations?

by BringtheFight 2006-04-25 08:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Okay, take the same argument and remove the words you find offensive. Hell, remove all reference to McCurry altogether. Take a look at what Matt wrote. The points being made by the telecom representatives are patently false and misleading. That's what's important here.

by Scott Shields 2006-04-25 08:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

After a one-year transition period, the phone companies can arbitrarily end any agreements they were forced to make with independent ISPs. During the transition year, the ISPs can attempt to negotiate new deals, but the cards are all in the hands of the telcos.

So for people (like me) who choose to use an independent, locally run ISP combined with DSL, we'll most likely be SOL after the transition year. Unless the telco decides out of the goodness of it heart to continue offering third-party ISP service.

As for McCurry, this episode destroys what little credibility he had left as a liberal. He's obviously as bad as Little Scotty when it comes to lying for his bosses. They should go into business together.

by jondevore 2006-04-25 08:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Surprise, surprise. McCurry may be making some cake off of telecommunications interests.

McCurry served from 1995-1998 in Clinton White House when the one of the largest media consolidations took place in history, The Telecommunications Act of 1996. Thanks for giving us the Clear Channeling of our current media choices and the brainwashing of America through AM radio tag team via right wing preachers and screaming hate mongers. Too bad Dems didn't follow up on how that Act would influence our hold on middle American ideals. I guess it was just another way to hold on to the White House for just four more years. What a deal for donations!

http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/mediatim eline.html

It's kind of like DCCC head Rahm Emanuel on Bill Maher's show the other night telling the world he is openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton. What better position to be in to influence that outcome?

I like them all, but how progressive are we when we set ourselves up to stay the same by playing the same game as the Republicans?

Does it really come down to the old gang wanting to play White House again instead of protecting our flank for the next 30 years?

Some of these people need to read Jerome's book.

by HE 2006-04-25 08:32AM | 0 recs
Where's the Beef?

Matt, Mike, etc,

Where's the info on this?  I am reading a lot of speculation about what regulation would/wouldn't do.   These waters seem pretty muddy and I hesitate to slam someone who stood up to the Lewinsky-era press corps.  He held the water against the partisan GOPers and now when the WH is worse than imaginable, Dems should give him respect - i'm not saying don't debate this issue - but keep in mind McCurry ain't no McClellan.

by jesusquintana 2006-04-25 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Where's the Beef?

Jesusquintana,
For some "beef", you can find some pretty good coverage of the issue on the Save The Internet blog (including clippings from trade publications, not just pro-net neutrality arguments: http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/
You might also check out a blog I co-author called "IP & Democracy" (http://www.ipdemocracy.com), where we cite and comment on a lot of net neutrality news and opinions, which we've been following for months.  My IPD partner, who's been doing most of the blogging lately (I haven't had time) is a very knowledgeable industry analyst who understands the issues and appreciates the value of an open Internet, but also has some appreciation for arguments against net neutrality rules. I'm also an industry analyst and, while I see some implementation challenges for net neutrality rules (and am most concerned about the dangers of legislative restrictions on municipal broadband networks), my read of Mike M's editorials lead me to agree with Matt that Mike is either confused on key issues or being consciously or semi-consciously deceptive.  And, in fact, Matt does address in his posts some of the key fallacies in Mike's arguments.

A blog post today on IPD cites comments related to net neutrality made at a "Digital Cities" conference by Vint Cerf, considered by many as the "father" of the Internet.  He now works for Google which, like virtually all web-based service providers, supports net neutrality rules, something that Mike's editorial ignores and even seems to imply is not the case.  And if you read this soon, you might be able to catch a House committee hearing scheduled soon on net neutrality that I think will be carried by CSPAN-3.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 10:07AM | 0 recs
Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

Former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry is deceiving the public, and its making my blood boil.

The most important thing in this business is not, by several light-years, the sad decline of a political icon of the left. (Surprised he's not in the masthead gallery...)

I turn up the FCC ruling (PDF) from last year that you refer to (a modest 133 pages), which refers back to a SCOTUS decision NCTA v Brand X from June 05, relating to a 2002 ruling which I haven't managed to track down a copy of yet.

Basically, SCOTUS said that the FCC's interpretation of the law used in making the 2002 ruling was OK within the Chevron doctrine (the legal part of Bush's In interpret the Constitution argument).

This seems to be a different point than the main thrust of the COPE bill (as I understand it) which is nondiscrimination in relation to content, not in relations between pipe-owners and ISPs.

I'm quite happy to believe that this is all a thoroughly meretricious corporate welfare scam. (Rather like that 1996 Telecoms Act that almost every MC was happy to put his name to.)

I'd just like to understand how, in the current case, I'm being tricked.

by skeptic06 2006-04-25 09:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

Skeptic06,

Not sure I followed your last comment, but as I see it, the "privatizing" or "two-tiering" of the Internet is evolving through several states.  Among the first was removing requirements for providing access to competitive ISPs (Brand X, etc.).  

Once there aren't any (or hardly any) competitive ISPs using the pipe-owners' networks, the next step in their strategy is to use their ownership of the pipes to squeeze profit-margins from (and potentially kill) web-based service and content providers like Google, Amazon, EBay and the many smaller players (Yahoo already has a deal with the telcos so they won't get the same level of squeeze, at least from the telcos).

The reason Mike M can make the claim that no harm has been done is because we're still at the relatively early stages of duopoly dysfunction.  We're at the cusp where voice and, increasingly, video are moving to web-based applications.  These two services are at the heart of telco and cable core businesses, which they both are desperate to protect.  They've accepted that they'll have to compete with each other, but they are united in their fear of competing fairly with companies like Google, Skype, etc., not to mention the big owners of video content like Hollywood studios and the broadcast networks.  

There already have been a few cases of outright service-blocking, but the large players are too smart to do this amidst a heated legislative battle.  And, it doesn't take outright blocking to shift the competitive landscape.  Absent any enforceable net neutrality rules, the pipe-owners will be able to keep tilting the playing field more and more to satisfy their Wall Street masters.  The danger is that, like the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water, society won't notice it until its too late.  

A related aspect is the technical constraints of telco networks.  Take AT&T, which, after the BellSouth merger, will be by far the dominant force in the local telco market.  They plan to upgrade part of their network over the next several years (concentrating on high-income areas and avoiding upgrades in lower-income areas) to deliver a total of 20-25 Mbps.  And how much of that do they plan to make available for Internet access?---only 6 Mbps.  And that's on their "next-generation" network.  If you add on an additional layer of fast vs. slow lanes on the Internet highway, you get a sense of what the public Internet will look like on telco pipes in most of the country over the next 5-10 years.  

That's part of why I'm in favor of municipal broadband, in the form of gigabit-or-more fiber networks integrated with muni-wireless networks in "smart-build" strategy that insures economic feasibility.  Net neutrality is important, but its not a full solution...its only a means to keep things from getting REALLY bad.  The Internet should be treated as the 21st century equivalent of the 20th century motor vehicle road network (without the pollution, congestion, wasted time and with much cheaper, faster and easier ability to expand)...basically a public, open-access "connection" utility, not a private network upon which we have to impose net neutrality requirements in order to keep the open Internet from being smothered.  The net neutrality battle needs to be fought and won, but it won't end the war.  Building public "Internet roads," in contrast, is a strategy for conclusively winning the war, even if it has to be done community by community.  And once a few communities have developed a successful model and are actually experiencing 21st century connectivity (both within the community and globally), more communities will follow their lead (for more on this, I recommend a new book called "America at the Internet Crossroads."--http://www.america-at-the-internet-cross roads.com

Personally, I'm eager to see MyDD evolve into a video-rich, high-bandwidth multimedia powerhouse.  If the pipe-owners get their way, they'll be able to keep MyDD in the Internet slow lane unless it pays them fees, even if us MyDD users are already paying them plenty of money every month for high-bandwidth service.  If CBS, Fox, etc. can afford to pay for carriage on that service tier (or, as content giants, have enough leverage over pipe-owners to keep their "carriage" fees low), I'll be able to watch their videos, though I probably won't want to.  But if MyDD doesn't pay the pipe-owners, I may never be able to watch Matt, Jerome, Chris, etc. on Internet TV, not matter how much I pay the pipe-owners for a high-speed connection.  Multiply that by thousands of web sites and services and millions of web users, and you get a sense of what's at stake.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

Thanks for that - the fog is starting to thin out in places!

One thing (of umpteen!) I'm not clear about is the relationship of the Policy Statement of August 5 (FCC-05-151A1) with the Report of August 5 (FCC-05-150A1).

The last of the four principles laid down in the Policy Statement says

consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

The Statement says the FCC wouldn't be adopting any rules to give effect to the statement.

Then, the version of the COPE bill I have (March 27) in §201 enables the FCC to make an adjucation on a complaint of a breach of the Policy Statement - but not make rules in relation to it!

(The Markey amendment that failed would have replaced §201 with a net neutrality provision.)

The FCC in the Report seem to be positing their relaxation of regulation on the assumption that competition between broadband operators (wireless and satellite as well as cable and DSL) will happen.

What if (when?) it doesn't happen? Presumably, if the new deregulated rules don't give the FCC power to put the situation right - and it's barred by §201 from making new ones (even if it wanted to), the adjudication is going to be pretty worthless.

In other words, mission accomplished for the telcos.

No doubt COPE will sail through the House tomorrow; how's the Video Doctor's hard count on cloture looking, I wonder? Nowhere near as sick as Uncle Harry's, I suspect - if, indeed, he's bothering to count at all.

Municipal sounds like the way to go - COPE §401 seems on the face of it to be quite friendly, but I assume the devil is in the competition neutrality provision.

by skeptic06 2006-04-25 02:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

I think the "mission accomplished" steps you lay out pretty well describe the telco strategy, which has the support of FCC chair Martin, who wants to regulate Internet content but not issues around net neutrality (a real Bush Republican who appears to think a vertically-integrated broadband duopoly is a healthy market structure, as long as alternative access technologies exist and can theoretically be deployed--or at least discussed).

I have a question for anyone about whether the Judiciary hearings today will have any impact on the prospects for net neutrality.  As I said in a comment on a later post by Matt, I was struck how committee members seemed to "get" the value of net neutrality and the inherent dishonesty of the arguments by USTA...but will this have any impact?

On muni provisions in the COPE bill, I think you're right.  I don't think it really deals with this, which is good in that they don't restrict munis(some earlier proposed bills did), but not so good in that the bill doesn't address existing (or potential) state restrictions on muni broadband projects, which exist in some states (see: http://www.baller.com/comm_broadband.htm l ) and which were the target of a bill introduced by Sens. McCain and Lautenberg.  One reading of the '96 Telecom Act would make such state restrictions illegal, but unfortunately a majority on the Supreme Court didn't think states qualified under the term "any entity"...seems like pretty plain language to me.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

skeptic06...Thanks for flagging the muni provision.  I just realized the version of the bill I had didn't include that provision.  Given the practice of telcos to endlessly sue muni projects (see Lafayette, LA as example), I'm a little concerned about 401(b), which prohibits a municipality (or state) from granting "any preference or advantage" to a broadband service provider they are affiliated with.  I'd prefer no restrictions on munis...they'll get sued by the incumbents anyway...why give their lawyers any additional ammunition?  My concern is that a broad reading of "any advantage" could potentially be construed to apply to any muni project...at least by a telco lawyer.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Saving the net first, vendettas afterwards...

Skeptic06- It is not altogether clear that the FCC does not already have the authority to step in should net neutrality be violated. I can recall at least one case where they did so when a smaller carrier tried to block content. That being said, I don't think forcing the FCC to regulate on an issue where there hasn't been a problem is a good idea.

by pkp646 2006-05-04 06:27AM | 0 recs
Democrats suicide mission

The United Church of Christ cannot PURCHASE advertising time for their controversial message that discrimination is bad. McCurry and other pro-suicide Democrats are unwilling to understand that media consolidation and the ability of channel owners to control content is the death of free speech and democratic debate. Remember - Al Gore intervened to get Murdoch some critical licenses in NYC; the Clintons never reinstated the fairness doctrine; that pathetic Les Aspin put Rush on Armed Forces Radio.

There is a reason why voices like Atrios and Kos, who attract huge audiences are only present on the only media that has carrier neutrality.

by flyoverperson 2006-04-25 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception
I know that this is the heart of what we need, to identify and call out deception and such from our own party in order to make it a better party with a stronger core....but I have to wonder at what point does this degrade to eating our own?
None of our advisors, or republican advisors are perfect, big business probably has both sides bought and paid for multiple times over and that will take time to clean out. In all reality because Mr McCurry is this 'mouthpiece for deception' or atleast being used (and compensated) for his name (though i'm not very familiar with it myself), why not be content with countering his facts instead of launching vitriolic attacks against him (and being diverted from other more important tasks) saving such energies for attacks against the right and maybe taking a higher road, although I would still argue a none-the-less firm or confrontational one for those allegedly within our own party?
by ccarter84 2006-04-25 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

I agree with part of what ccarter84 is saying here. McCurry has actually worked very hard on behalf of many of the democratic ideals you espouse. To debate the facts and merits of this issue is fine, but let's lay off the personal attacks.

McCurry recognized long before most democrats the value of net politics.

At some point there needs to be a bridge between progressives and democrats and burning the few bridges that exist does neither any good.

by gogo minoso 2006-04-27 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Good points from all above and my two cents is that I think what we will see happen to the internet is akin to what happens when you order cable service. We will be given a menu of choices and a certain amount of free content.

So, while we may 'purchase' Ebay, Amazon, etc. our provider may not offer Overstock and the like, while another provider has an entirely different menu of choices. I think the telcos could also potentially block access to sites that are unfavorable to them politically and commercially. If that is the case then goodbye to free unfettered access.

Does anyone know if there are going to be provisions to limit this type of abuse or are we basically looking at the 'cabilization' of the internet?

by brianfromhouston 2006-04-25 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

I have a question: does this FCC ruling you mention mean that net neutrality has to be enacted as law in order to override the freedom to gouge that telcos have now?  Or are we in a position where a bad law deregulating telcos can be stopped?  I have heard both, and it seems to me that the former (needing to pass a new provision) will be much, much harder in this Congress than the latter (stopping a bad provision).

by antidoto 2006-04-25 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

My understanding is that recent FCC and court actions now allow the pipe-owners to engage in the abuses we're discussing but that they haven't really done much of it yet. So, yes, without a new law, there ain't much to stop them, except maybe antitrust action, which would probably not be a useful tool in avoiding damage, only using the courts to try to fight the most egregious abuses, which I don't think is worth much from a practical perspective.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 03:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

skeptic06...Thanks for flagging the muni provision.  I just realized the version of the bill I had didn't include that provision.  Given the practice of telcos to endlessly sue muni projects (see Lafayette, LA as example), I'm a little concerned about 401(b), which prohibits a municipality (or state) from granting "any preference or advantage" to a broadband service provider they are affiliated with.  I'd prefer no restrictions on munis...they'll get sued by the incumbents anyway...why give their lawyers any additional ammunition?  My concern is that a broad reading of "any advantage" could potentially be construed to apply to any muni project...at least by a telco lawyer.

by mitchipd 2006-04-25 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

McCurry is not wrong. The internet has thrived becuase of the government's willful absence from interferring with its growth. Unnecessary legislation and regulation will only hamper that growth.

by pkp646 2006-05-04 06:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

Actually, I think your description is highly misleading and inaccurate.

ISPs and the Internet services offered by RBOCs do not have common carrier status.  They do not have to accept anyone as a customer and they do not have to collect fees for universal service or any of the other requirements of common carriage as Internet providers.  RBOCs do have common carrier status regarding the use of their networks for connecting to the public telephone system or for private lines (e.g., used to set up a private network), but not for connecting to their Internet services.

The DSL issue that is changing is that today, the RBOCs have to allow other Internet providers to connect to DSL customers over the RBOC's last-mile networks, and they will no longer be required to do so in the future.  Those Internet providers do not need to connect to the RBOC's Internet networks--they typically have their own, or use multiple backbone providers from which they purchase IP transit services (a very competitive market).

Your statement makes it sound like ISPs are common carriers for Internet services (which would be a very bad idea--it would mean, for example, that spammers who abide by CAN-SPAM have to be sold service, whereas any responsible ISP will deny service to spammers, even if they abide by the minimal requirements of CAN-SPAM).

by Jim Lippard 2006-05-07 05:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Mike McCurry: Mouthpiece For Deception

I've expanded on this comment at my blog.  In my opinion, the real issue of significance is last mile competition, not regulation for some imprecise notion of "net neutrality" from people who don't understand how the Internet currently works.  Net neutrality advocates are missing the real issue, which is just what the telcos want.  If you haven't read the Stifel/Nicolaus report, "Value Chain Tug-of-War" (PDF), the odds are that you don't understand the real issues.

mitchipd clearly gets it.

by Jim Lippard 2006-05-08 04:05AM | 0 recs

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