Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

I'm really angry about net neutrality right now.  It's conventional wisdom that there will be no net neutrality legislation moved this cycle, which is completely fucking ridiculous.  There's an open universal wireless broadband and cell phone network that the US could implement in 2009, but the FCC's Kevin Martin really wants to give it away.  Meanwhile, the broadband providers are starting to impose cell phone like restrictions on their service, beginning with those lovely early termination fees that we all love.  And Google and the internet companies are laughably incompetent in their lobbying capacity (this comes from the leadership of those companies, who find DC dumb and dirty and neuter their lobbyists).

And then there's the CEO pay.  AT&T CEO Ed Whiteacre is going to get, according to Pensions and Investments (can't find link), "$158.4 million pension package when he retires as chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc, the highest of any CEO." And then there's Ivan Seidenberg, of Verizon, who made $109 million the last five despite a shareholder return of negative five percent.

The Communications Workers of America are going after Seidenberg not Whiteacre, because Whiteacre isn't trying to union-bust.  But in public policy matters, when Seidenberg or Whiteacre say 'jump', CWA says 'how high'.  Right now, the net neutrality fight is stalled because CWA is relying on their corporate masters rather than its natural allies, the progressive and consumer rights movements.  In Maryland, during a fight over a net neutrality bill, both CWA and Verizon showed up in force demanding that Maryland House of Delegates not even consider the bill because it had non-binding net neutrality findings in it.  Both the corporate and labor lobbyists flat-out lied.

The union opposed the bill because it would put company investment at risk, and thus put jobs at risk. He was also careful to note what a wonderful employer Verizon was because it provides health care to its workers. According to CWA's written statement: "Bills such as HB 1069 would cause the loss of good jobs with health care and other benefits in the state of Maryland."

Michael Dean, the president of the Maryland CWA state council, piled on by saying that Verizon provides "good paying jobs" laying fiber and he, too, didn't want to put those jobs at risk. (Of course, CWA's witnesses somehow didn't get around to testifying that they endorsed the part of the bill calling for reporting of broadband deployment.)

Verizon, of course, opposed the bill, as did Verizon Wireless, with their lobbyist, Robert Branson, reminding the Committee about the two centers the company has for developing innovation in Maryland. The not-so-subtle message: Don't screw this up.

This kind of strategic blindness is unnecessary.  CWA has its Speed Matters campaign, which we would wholly endorse if it just included net neutrality.  We in the progressive and consumer rights movement all want a universal broadband build-out done by public funds and a unionized workforce.  CWA wants the same.  And yet, the union is so afraid that they will lose jobs to cable that they will cozy up to Ivan Seidenberg on matters of public policy while blasting him publicly for excessive pay.  This might work if the public were on their side, but consumers don't care about unions when unions obviously don't care about them.  

I've had multiple union officials, when I tried explaining the net neutrality issue/CWA conflict say to me that I should just 'get over it' and work on good jobs for workers like a good progressive.  I guess we have more educating to do, but still, we have to solve this.  The AFL-CIO knows that CWA is on the wrong side of the net neutrality issue, but the various member unions can't move without CWA on board.  It's an obvious organizing problem, if corporate owners can move in to control the internet as they do every other form of media.  The labor movement knows this better than anyone, they should just do the right thing.  Arrgggh.

Or let me put it another way.  If you are a labor leader, who would you throw your lot in with?

Option one is the telecom industry.  Verizon is run by an evil management that is aggressively trying to union-bust. AT&T won't be far behind when Whiteacre retires.  The cable industry is putting structural pressure on telecom, and everyone knows that America is behind the rest of the world as our corporate elites try to control the one free medium that exists.  

Option two is the progressive movement.  African-American political organizations want to make universal broadband a core civil rights plank, the progressive netroots is a growing force in the Democratic party, and consumers are completely fed-up with big telecom and aggressively bad service from wireless and cable companies.

There's more power in option two, and it's where CWA should be moving.  Let's get net neutrality going already.

Tags: CWA, Ed Whiteacre, Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Hm

As someone who might be soon getting into telecom, any idea how Qwest is?

by LnGrrrR 2007-04-09 02:22PM | 0 recs
This needs to be BIG

Big on all of the "candidates" platforms. Not just a talking point but an ACTION item!

by kevin22262 2007-04-09 02:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

So perhaps the answer is to educate the CWA union members and get them to move their leaders on this issue? Of course, it would likely be best to go to their leadership first and ask them why they haven't changed course to ally themselves with progressives already and to encourage them to do so quickly. If the leaders refuse then we go to the union members?

Just an idea I guess. I haven't been following Net Neutrality that closely as an issue lately, but I'm assuming if they aren't touching it this Congress, that means it doesn't have the votes...or some deal has been struck. Either way, I share your frustration.

by Elise 2007-04-09 02:43PM | 0 recs
This one deserves careful thought

Alright, I am not sure who is on the speed matters commitee at CWA but at stake with an open internet, as designed by the internet founders - and moving away from tiered internet services and giving telcos and other companies the ability to charge for things we couldn't verify , as end users (like midpoint bandwidth) -- I would say that the key ally in this case actually should be found in the digital rights management, copy protection and the secure artists and content lobbies that have a real stake in keeping their fees, simply whatever they are buying at the last mile.

In the end, the telcos - are really lobbying, just as they have for these termination fees and other fees  -  for the ability to hike our costs without really letting us find out a way to control them. For example, Internet 2 is now being built out - and the telcos want to try to gate access across it and transform it from what the NSF has decided it will do.

So, this is a touch issue, Matt. The feds really need to lead on this one - and casting your lot with those who would head off the pirates is your best bet. And believe it or not, that means the white house.

Surprised?  Well, the main thing is that the strongest members of the group to keep the internet strong and free - are the ones who simply want to be guaranteed a neutral, open area where end users can access content without having artificial or theoretical boundaries thrown up that allow telcos the power to shut them down in a manner that they really can't control.

you see, the telcos can control segments of traffic. here's a great example. (hopefully I can show my skill at research here..)

suppose we are talking about mydd.com
lets trace it from an online trace route

This is the tracer -
http://centralops.net/asp/co/Traceroute. vbs.asp?addr=www.mydd.com

Here's what you get..
hop rtt rtt rtt   ip address domain name
1 2 3 1   70.84.211.97 61.d3.5446.static.theplanet.com
2 0 0 0   70.84.160.162 vl2.dsr02.dllstx5.theplanet.com
3 0 0 0   70.85.127.109 po52.dsr02.dllstx3.theplanet.com
4 0 0 0   70.87.253.25 et3-2.ibr04.dllstx3.theplanet.com
5 0 0 0   4.71.122.1 te-3-1.car4.Dallas1.Level3.net
6 13 1 1   4.68.122.190 ae-32-56.ebr2.Dallas1.Level3.net
7 28 21 33   4.69.134.22 ae-7.ebr1.Atlanta2.Level3.net
8 40 36 36   4.69.132.86 ae-2.ebr1.Washington1.Level3.net
9 37 35 35   4.69.132.30 ae-1-100.ebr2.Washington1.Level3.net
10 52 40 49   4.69.132.102 ae-4.ebr2.Newark1.Level3.net
11 40 39 40   4.68.99.168 ae-24-56.car4.Newark1.Level3.net
12 38 37 37   4.71.144.22 VOXEL-DOT-N.car4.Newark1.Level3.net
13 37 37 37   208.122.5.10 829.ae0.cr1.lga2.us.voxel.net
14 38 37 40   69.9.166.105 5.ge0-1.esr1.d4.lga2.us.voxel.net
15 37 37 37   208.122.14.190 mydd-web.netroots.com

alright now, we are going through Level3 routers
that peer to each other in Dallas, and Atlanta, and then edge off on either side to Voxel in Newark, New Jersey and another ISP called ThePlanet.

So there are basically three players to the hit, that I make here from "my" location. Level3, Voxel, and ThePlanet.

The key to understanding how the digital rights people will be your best friend is to understand how, in fact, a tiered internet will actually be built out and how the so called "special services" that the telcos want to "provide" will actually be provisioned and executed.

Lets say net neutrality is blown away, and now Level3 has the right to charge for a "high speed lane" to the net. Ok, so I'm hitting myDD but the build out for the new high speed lane was from Dallas to Atlanta.

Well, we can all figure out where MyDD paid for their internet connectivity and hosting. Its up there in Newark or Maybe DC or somewhere in new England. (shades of Jerome) - ok, so MyDD covers their DNS charges (which are governed now by ICANN and other international protocols) and the DNS hit is not important. Its small, so the billing for MyDD to take the high speed lane will never fly - so they won't try to hit you for DNS. Also, they won't likely try to stuff Geographic information in the DNS record since the Registrars don't like it. So the DNS record is a basic neutral hit. No worries. Now, that I am resolved to an IP address, then the real address farm that myDD.com bought out, will route to their edge. That means that myDD paid for the edge of that network, lets say its a T1x3 bundle, 5 megs or something like that. Ok. So myDD paid for that first segment, and the committed information rate is sound to that peer.

No worries man. you're on your way.

BUT the buildout for the new speed lane will get down to a physical fiber pair running from dallas to Atlanta.

Alright. So. What happens to mr. packet?

He heads off but then hits the dallas-atlanta level3 network. In order for them to build it out, they will have to charge to take that route. So that means they will come back to your ISP and say that if they want preferential treatment, they'll have to pay more - and that means that the ISP will charge you more for your edge.
BUT the edge connection is STILL THE SAME SPEED.

Ok, so this is pretty technical (forgive me) but in the end, the key observation is to note that the pipeline that myDD buys, in order to deliver content to us - is the same pipeline.  There is no possible way for the Telcos to rollout, all at once, an upgrade where the highspeed goes out to the edge. That's important.

Its important because MyDD pays for those T1 lines, maybe as much as 10,000.00 bucks a month.
And what that means, is that they will get a bill for 14,000.00 a month from out of the blue, if they want to play ball. But the ISP will never be able to guarantee that end to end speed because just as every route traces across the internet, goes a different way - they will never be able to guarantee that as they handoff to other carriers, that the packets will all be treated properly. 100 percent cooperation with all ISPs and Telcos is essential and its never happened in the history of the internet. Assuming it won't again, means that the ISP is just being used.

In other words, the bandwidth would exist from Dallas to Atlanta, and traffic  would Open shortest path first or switch to or through that segment, based on flow control - but the packets that come from the edge at MyDD's actual site where they purchased the line, would have to be tagged and handled in a manner in which Level3 and Not myDD's isp or telco, handles.

Now, the digital rights people are aware of all of this - because they are into getting the encrypted MP3 (m4p) files out there with a secure connection (at higher endpoint processing cost) over the same bandwidth. They don't want special treatment, far from it. They want to make sure that if its van halen, or beethoven, its all the same to the end user. Napster gave them a problem in this regard because ultimately the actual and physical file was dusted all throughout the internet (p2p). They are incredibly aggressive at pursuing these people whenever they can find them, morpheus, grokster, etc. but the other versions keep popping up. The key to these little programs success is how they continue to dust themselves across the net and make it impossible for the digital rights people to shut them down, the ready access to bandwidth has been the key competitive factor.

Now a big contributing factor to some of the darker aspects of the net, is that many times the bandwidth will be stolen, and this is a fact of life - esp. when it comes to sending big files around the net. There is a huge network of compromised security workstations that is known as "bot net". The botNet is constantly changing but is compromised all across the spectrum.
This is how the initial trades for really dark and pernicious copyright violation (we're talking chinese) all take place.

What in fact net neutrality does is put ITunes on an equal footing with the botNet because ITunes would be the first customer to have to 'pay' for the better bandwidth ( that they don't actually measure or receive through their edge agreement) all the while the morpheus and groksters are getting it for free through botNet. And while iTunes slows down through all the segments where the new buildout isn't occuring, because it is more centralized and subject to the "toll", the groksters of the world dust across the good and the bad just like vandals can spraypaint claim a speeding train or a highway overpass and make it all their own at any time. And then disappear!

ITunes would always be there, ready for more pain.

And, in this example, so would myDD. Lets say its important for myDD to be online. Then if the ISP comes back and says we need more money, they are on the hook.

So your friends are not those who think DC is dirty and dull. Far from it. Your friends are those who are currently routing around DC and hoping that their downloads are making it all the way to the end user at the same speed that the spyware is currently ripping their workstations apart. The CWA stays in business because they're still building out the thing that employs them in the first place instead of sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Once people get upside down it gets hard to go rightside up and its more about what you're really paying for. Acknowledging some simple and fundamental facts about the internet really help all involved.

Total stream of consciousness thing. Hope this post helps. :-)

by heyAnita 2007-04-09 03:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

I am a telephone worker.  I have been a technician for AT&T since 1979.  I am also a Local President of a CWA Local that has gone from 2600 members to 260 members in the last 20 years.  I find your article incredibly insulting.  I have been at every Shareholders' meeting for the last 20 years speaking out against CEO pay, from the old AT&T Long Lines to my first meeting with Ed Whitacre.   Every day we fight the company, and every contract we struggle for our jobs and our benefits.  I don't know how good a job the  CWA spokesperson in Maryland did in his presentation in Maryland, but for someone to say we have good jobs and benefits is NOT sucking up to the company.  It is a real description of the situation of working Americans  -we are divided between the small numbers who have Unions and have decent wages and benefits and the great numbers who do not.  To say that we want the technology needs of this country to be met by workers who are decently paid and that these jobs should grow should be everyone's goal.  Not to point this out is like saying Walmart is good because it provides cheap prices for working Americans who shop and ignore all the evil it does to its workforce and workers around the world.  

Those forces who see net neutrality as the ONLY issue are the ones who are betraying their progressive roots.  The absolute key need right now is for public policy to create the conditions for a massive build out of very high speed internet access that touches every home in America.  Do you think if we built out that kind of network ( like Japan with 100 Mbp)s to every American, which is 10 or 15 times the speed we have now, that anyone would care if a small portion of that bandwidth was set aside for video or private network services.   How else is this going to get paid for?  Let's not be naïve.  Where is the investment going to come from to build out what we really need in this country?   We fought a major campaign in New England to keep Verizon from trying to abandon rural areas.  Where were the net neutrality folks in that battle?  Do the rural areas that have dial up and the inner cities with no access care if YouTube and Google (who make billions) are a millisecond slower (which they would not be if we had really high speed build out anyway)?  That said, if you read our position paper at http://www.speedmatters.org it has clear point on public disclosure, open, unrestricted Internet access, "anti-trust" protection and more.

Your choice of two options is phony - it is not between the evil telecom empire and the progressive movement.   The SPEED MATTERS campaign is consistently reaching out to communities, libraries, rural areas and addressing the key issue of how we are going to get all people affordable access.   Talk about being a good coalition partner - let's see the Net Neutrality folks spend even a small amount of their energy on fighting for affordable, high speed access for all.  I follow the net neutrality blogs and I don't see it at all.

by Laura Unger 2007-04-09 04:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

Stoller does support universal access for all.  As do I.  We don't want it done by Verizon.  They aren't a reliable partner and frankly, the telecoms are an oligopoly that needs to be busted up again or brought under proper government control.  

But whoever does the build out, it'll need workers.

In the meantime, the net neutrality folks aren't going to be your allies if you want to go to bat for Verizon gutting net neutrality (your "position paper" doesn't matter if your lobbyists are supporting the other side.  Period.)  Your choice.  Stoller has spent a lot of time and effort being good to Labor when very few bloggers are, but feel free to spit in his face - it's always useful to know where various parties stand, and you're making it real clear.

by Ian Welsh 2007-04-09 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

Thx for this, Laura.

As someone who only spent a couple years in a telecom start-up, I see how uninformed and insular Stoller is on this issue (that he is leads this post with the netopia block notice is testament to how he continues to conflate NN and hotspot filtering) and it is good to see a telecom veteran chime in on the matter.

by Disputo 2007-04-09 05:29PM | 0 recs
Verizon Sucks

I used to work for Verizon Wireless--a decidedly non-union company. I can confirm that, while their benefits were pretty good, they raised production quotes virtually every single quarter to the point where the only people who were meeting those quotas were salespeople who were lying to customers and misrepresenting what the customers were purchasing. Verizon was also virulently anti-union and cared not at all what the wisdom from the floor was. They are also, as a company big supporters of the Republican Party and, as has been covered in numerous news stories, one of the companies that allowed Homeland Security to go through customers phone records.

Through their purchase of MCI they are also now the supplier of cellular services to our unending Iraq quagmire. (BTW, talk about going for the bottom feeders--the Bush Administration awarded the Iraqis cellular monopoly to MCI within a couple years after it had been convicted of over $7 billion dollars of fraud against US consumers.)

Finally, the argument that any action might affect a company's credit rating is an argument used again and again when there are no REAL arguments to oppose a company's position. It's the US equivalent of, we oppose environmental and worker protections in international free trade agreements because it makes the US less competitive. It sounds good, but it can be applied to every issue and just means that folks who are in the back pocket of any US company have a good sound bite to roll out for why they support any anti-competitive, anti-worker initiative.

by Hoomai29 2007-04-09 08:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Verizon Sucks

Recently I learned that Verizon has started to punish it's lower income customers of DSL by reserving it's best rate for those who sign up for a year. As a renter, I can't do that...but moreover, it's economically nonsensical. Yearly contracts were necessary for cell phones because there was no other way to gauge market share. But with hardwire you don't need yearly contracts. Verizon has made me feel very, very used.

But I'm not an idiot either. Once the Vonage case is over, I suspect all major telecoms will start bundling and redlining customers ad nauseum.

by risenmessiah 2007-04-09 10:12PM | 0 recs

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