Consumer Groups’ Advocacy Hypocrisy

Consumer groups by definition are supposed to be protecting consumers’ interests — not be pushing a special interest political agenda under the guise of the “public interest.” Let’s spotlight a recent and blatant hypocrisy whereby consumer groups near-completely ignored an instance of obvious widespread consumer harm (the FCC’s proposed fine of Google for obstructing its Street View wiretapping investigation), while in another contemporaneous issue, consumer groups gang-pummeled a non-issue to push a political Internet commons agenda (strongly objecting to Comcast’s new market offering where XBox usage does not apply to a user’s 250 Gig monthly data cap.)

Google Street View Wiretapping: Why is Google obstructing a Federal wiretapping investigation affecting the privacy of literally tens of millions of American households’ — not a consumer protection issue? How come consumer groups routinely and loudly call for FCC investigations of broadband companies’ legal marketplace actions, but are silent on the obvious obstruction of a Federal investigation into Google allegedly being involved in potentially the largest wiretapping and mass invasion of citizens’ privacy by a corporation in U.S. history? How is it in consumers’ interest for the government to not be able to determine if Google actually violated Federal law or not?

And how is it in consumers’ interests for consumer groups to not be using this national teachable moment — to strongly encourage the vast majority of American households that are unaware they need to password-protect or encrypt their WiFi router signals to do so? Consumer groups know that one way fraudsters and identity thieves gain access to peoples’ private information and steal from them or harm them, is via wardriving like Google did to tens of millions of American households. Consumer groups deafening silence about Google’s widespread wiretapping protects Google’s interests not consumers’ interests.

Comcast-XBox Offering: In stark contrast, consumer groups have loudly railed against and pilloried Comcast for a normal marketplace offering that harms no consumer. How does the most generous data cap in the business that ensures that normal usage consumers do not have to subsidize abnormally high usage consumers harm consumers? How is usage-based pricing harmful to consumers? Are consumers harmed for paying for what they use like when they use water, heat, air conditioning etc.? No. It is a common sense practice and sound economics to price for usage, especially when data usage is exploding and creating increased pressures on networks and network management.

And how are XBox users hurt from not having a limit on their data usage? Consumer groups know Comcast’s normal marketplace practice violates no law, nor does it violate the FCC’s Open Internet Order which specifically allows Comcast’s managed services offering. Consumer groups are raising a stink not because this Comcast offering harms consumers, but because it runs counter to their special interest political agenda for the Government to mandate an Internet commons via FCC imposition of Title II monopoly common carrier regulation of broadband providers (even though the FCC knows it does not have the statutory authority to do, and Congress has rejected that idea.)

So why the hypocrisy? Could it be that consumer groups see Google as a critical political ally in the Internet Commons fight so they grant them the special look-the-other-way treatment?

Given that consumer groups often rail against broadband providers for funding third-party groups and consequently question the integrity of those groups, it is especially interesting that Google says it funds: The Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, Public Knowledge, New America Foundation, Media Access Project, etc. How would consumer groups explain to consumers how they are different?

 

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