Last year, consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge penned a piece that was by and large ignored by the Steve Jobs-obsessed technology media. In it, Art Brodksy exposed broadband mapping group Connected Nation
as little more than a policy front group for AT&T and Verizon. The group was created, Brodsky notes, to gloss over the nation's deployment shortcomings, derail better State-level mapping projects, and lobby lawmakers for major carriers under the pretense of science. Nobody cared.
Now Connected Nation is poised to grab roughly $350 million in taxpayer dollars in what Brodsky suggests may be one of the most elaborate telecom lobbyist con jobs ever conceived. A broadband mapping organization tasked with actually inhibiting accurate mapping would certainly be a diabolical form of genius, going well beyond traditional telecom lobbyist ruses like fake consumer advocacy groups
. Brodsky this week issued one last warning
that we're making an irreversible mistake by putting Connected Nation at the root of the nation's new broadband policy:
AT&T, by the way, is the prime mover behind Connected Nation. The cautionary tale is that the company will stop at nothing in order to foist its version of broadband reality on the public, including destroying e-NC. And there is little that policymakers can do about it, thanks to the Broadband Data Improvement Act, taken from legislation sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that Congress passed last year. The bill sets up awards to go to the group most wired into state governments – Connected Nation, backed by the army of telephone and cable lobbyists around the country.
Despite a board of directors
that reads like a who's who of top incumbent lobbying and policy executives, Connected Nation continues to deny Brodsky's charges that they're a plaything for mega-carriers. Connected Nation boss Brian Mefford (who we'll be talking to in detail in coming weeks) insists the company takes virtually no money directly from AT&T, and insists that the project is an objective and fair private-public mapping partnership.
But according to Brodsky, we're about to spend $350 million for broadband mapping data that won't be accurate, will be owned by AT&T and not the taxpayers who paid for it, and can't be independently verified. That doesn't quite sound like the new age of accountability and transparency promised when the Obama administration began working toward a national broadband policy. Five years from now, when the government and AT&T are still pretending the nation's broadband coverage gaps don't exist, you can't say you weren't warned.