A continuation from the previous post about a Feb. 3 announcement of a report on why municipal networks are a terrible, anti-competitive idea: In the previous post, below, I dissected BusinessWeek's blog entry on a new report that will be released on Feb. 3 from the New Millennium Research Council. In this post, I include the announcement's text after the jump below, and provide some background on each of the people who will be part of the press event.
I've done this annotation not because I wholeheartedly oppose their point of view, but rather because a light needs to be shone on the connections between organizations that call themselves independent but have ties among each other and to the industries about which they are stating they have an objective opinion about. This is about transparency, and a pro-municipal telecom group that was similarly opaque would receive the same treatment. (Oddly, there only appear to be pro-individuals and municipalities, not groups that I've heard from or about.)
David P. McClure, president and CEO of the US Internet Industry Association. This association filed an amicus brief on behalf of Verizon in an RIAA suit in which Verizon was trying to be compelled to release user information. Verizon also holds a board seat in the organization. It appears generally pro-consumer in terms of privacy and disclosure--because it's against shifting the burden of enforcement to ISPs--and anti-regulation for taxing and oversight.
The USIIA does not list its membership. Its founding members don't include many Internet service providers. US Robotics employees were key among founding members, and the group's chairman is Dennis Hayes, the legendary modem developer. The USIIA is listed as a client of Issue Dynamics, which is the parent company of New Millennium Research Council. (See below.)
Steven Titch, senior fellow for IT and Telecom Policy at The Heartland Institute. The Heartland Institute describes itself as a genuinely independent source of research and commentary. Sascha Meinrath noted that the institute refuses to disclose its funding sources and doesn't list affiliations of Board of Directors on their website. However, it is a 501(c)(3) corporation. On its Form 990 filed with the IRS for 2003 (filed under an extension before August 2004), the organization checked "No" on Schedule III, Part A, line I that reads, "During the year, has the organization attempted to influence national, state, or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum." If they had checked yes, they are required to fill out Part VI-A and VI-B detailing expenses in cash and by other means. In 2003, they received $1.5 million in contributions from unnamed sources out of $1.8 million in revenue.
The Heartland Institute states on their Web site why they don't reveal donors: After much deliberation and with some regret, we now keep confidential the identities of all our donors. If you do not approve of this policy, your argument is not with us but with those who would abuse a sincere effort at transparency. The Center for Media & Democracy has an entry about them as well noting their smoker's rights and anti-Kyoto stances. The board includes a Philip Morris exec. [Media Transparency's list of foundation contributors.] The last donor list on their site was Oct. 17, 2002, according to the Internet Archive; it's archived here.
Braden Cox, technology counsel, Competitive Enterprise Institute. The institute focuses primarily on anti-regulation issues with particular emphasis on removing environmental regulations. Cox has written articles that appear on the Heartland Institute Web site. (A firm he worked for previous, Veriprise Wireless was acquired by Mbrane which filed for bankruptcy a few months later in Aug. 2001; it's hard to find out much about that business or its partners.)
For the CEI tax year ending 9/2003, they did claim on their Form 990 to be lobbying for legislative change in the amount of less than $13,000. Their site has no information on their funding. [Media Transparency's list of foundation contributors -- quite similar in recent years to the Heartland Institute]
Barry Aarons, Research Fellow, Institute for Policy Innovation. The Center for Media and Democracy says that IPI hides its sponsors. He spent 20 years at US West. Aarons was also connected with the Progress and Freedom Foundation, which openly lists its supporters, which include a wide range of computer, media, and telecom firms. A breath of fresh air, at last, but not connected with this effort. [Media Transparency's list of foundation contributors; again, many similar names]
Paul Bachman, Research Assistant, The Beacon Hill Institute. The Institute is part of Suffolk University. Focuses on competitiveness, which is a code word for deregulation.
The New Millennium Research Council is listed as the organization releasing the report. Their board comprises people who seem genuinely focused on universal access issues. Update: There's much more about NRMC, a division of a lobbying firm called Issue Dynamics, in this new post.
Review their list of scholars and experts who have spoken at their events or released reports under their auspices and you find a very interesting mixed bag of interests, all quite openly presented. Two Verizon employees participated in NMRC events--one a director, another a senior vice president. Both Braden Cox and David P. McClure have contributed to NMRC reports.
Anthony Townsend, formerly of NYC Wireless and emenity (once called Cloud Networks), is quoted in the advance press about the report. He is listed on the NMRC's expert and scholars page. The advance material on the report quoted Townsend as saying that Philadelphia's $10 million estimate is far too low, although he's quoted from an article in Reason, apparently not from a direct interview by the report's author. (The article, like other coverage of broadband Wi-Fi networks, assumes that the equipment being deployed will work like home wireless access points in terms of signal strength, range, and omnidirectional coverage.)
NMRC REPORT TO WARN OF POTENTIAL GRAVE FLAWS IN MUNICIPAL SCHEMES
TO PROVIDE WI-FI BROADBAND SERVICES WITH PUBLIC FUNDS
Leading Authors of Report to Discuss Key Findings About Likely Woes; Philadelphia & New York Steps Highlight Significance and Urgency.
WASHINGTON, D.C.//News Advisory//As cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco toy with the notion of using public funds to provide Wi-Fi wireless broadband access to their citizens and businesses, the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) will release a major new report raising serious concerns about the short- and long-term viability of such municipal wi-fi schemes. Key authors of the NMRC report will participate in a phone-based news conference at 1:30 p.m. on February 3, 2005 to discuss their major conclusions.
News event speakers will be:
* U.S. Internet Industry Association President and CEO David P. McClure;
* The Heartland Institute Senior Fellow for IT and Telecom Policy Steven Titch;
* Competitive Enterprise Institute Technology Counsel Braden Cox;
* Institute for Policy Innovation Research Fellow Barry Aarons; and
* The Beacon Hill Institute Research Assistant Paul Bachman.
The experts will highlight such concerns as: the failure of city-run Internet/telecommunication access initiatives in the recent past; unrealistic assumptions about likely front-end costs and the risk of future overruns that could significantly burden taxpayers; the lack of evidence that these networks will create economic development and jobs; and unfair competition and potential disruption to commercial broadband firms that will be undercut by city-subsidized services.
TO PARTICIPATE: A live, two-way phone-based news conference (including full
Q&A) will be held on February 3, 2004 at [number removed]. Ask for the "municipal wi-fi report" telenews event.
CAN'T PARTICIPATE?: A streaming audio replay of the phone-based news conference and related documents will be available on the Web at http://www.thenmrc.org.
CONTACT: [details removed]
The New Millennium Research Council (NMRC) is composed of a network of policy experts who develop workable, real-world solutions to the issues and challenges confronting policymakers. Its work has focused primarily in the fields of telecommunications and technology. For more information, please visit: http://www.thenmrc.org.