On Tuesday morning, an AT&T-funded front group, Americans for Prosperity, announced a $1.4 million advertising blitz to try to convince Americans that the FCC is plotting to "take over the Internet."
Last week, the FCC simply proposed to "reclassify" aspects of broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act to better advance its goals of bridging the digital divide and safeguarding the free and open Internet.
But AFP is spinning this into, laughably and somewhat ironically, a "government takeover." During yesterday's press conference, AFP trotted out Grover Norquist, the right-wing hit man perhaps best known for threatening to "drown the government in a bathtub," to put his stamp on their cause.
Looks like they want to drown the Internet, too - along with our democracy.
Hours later, AFP's message came spewing forth from FOX News' Megyn Kelly, who invited Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press (which runs the SavetheInternet.com campaign) on her show to presumably discuss both sides of Net Neutrality, only to shut him out of the conversation.
Of course, this isn't the first time Fox has spread misinformation about Net Neutrality and the FCC's role in protecting the Internet for the public. AFP Vice President Phil Kerpen has repeatedly been a guest on Fox's Glenn Beck program to vilify Net Neutrality as Obama's scheme to take control of all media - a crackpot conspiracy that Beck is always happy to spread.
And now, two top Republican leaders - Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) -- have inserted these same lies in a letter to President Obama today telling him to tell the FCC to back away.
The "takeover" meme is downright scary - because even though it couldn't be further from the truth, millions of people are watching, and now AT&T and others are spending millions to brand it on our brains. They're hoping that if they say "Internet takeoever" enough, people will start to believe it. After all, from "death tax" to "death panels," it has worked before.
During the Free Press policy summit in D.C. on Tuesday, Sen. Byron Dorgan called the AFP on their "big lie," saying industry lobbyists are trying to stigmatize people who are "trying to make sure the Internet remains open and free ... and is not controlled and managed by increasingly larger corporations." Watch an excerpt of his speech:
And FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also reiterated the FCC's mission to protect the Internet for consumers at the same event, saying, "We are trying to keep the Internet in your hands and not in the hands of industry gatekeepers. The only threatened "takeover" of the Internet is by industry. If they begin to restrict access, prioritize their own offerings, or make other critical changes to the structure of what has been an incredible economic driver as an open platform, then we all should be concerned."
Indeed, we've already experienced what Clyburn warns about - Comcast blocking legal file-sharing traffic, for example - and Internet service providers have made clear their plans to shut down the open nature of the Internet, as corporations have done with every other media platform in history.
Here's the good news about industry's recent actions: They wouldn't be spending $1.4 million if they weren't scared - and they're scared of you, and of us, and of all the tech groups, businesses, advocacy organizations, law professors and lawmakers who have expressed support for Net Neutrality and reclassification.
What's good for the public - and the country - isn't always good for corporations. FCC provisions to protect the open and neutral platform of the Internet run counter to industry's future business model for the Internet (a place where they cash in while controlling what we can and cannot view on the Web), and they're doing whatever they can to keep their plans in place.
We warned that the coming months would bring a tidal wave of opposition from phone and cable company lobbyists - the likes of which we have never seen before - and indeed, it is already happening. Strap on your life jackets, folks. We're going to need you.
Follow Megan Tady on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MegTady