Big Government Piece: NoTakeOver Project-Political Bedfellows Not Worth the Sleep-over

by Mike Wendy on May 19, 2011

Wanted to share a piece I wrote for Big Government this week on a new coalition profiting from the old game of merger politics:

NoTakeOver Project-Political Bedfellows Not Worth the Sleep-over

Politics makes strange bedfellows.  Witness the latest liaison, with Cellular South’s CEO, Hu Meena, and his new partnership with the NoTakeOver Project – a coalition of professional misanthropes that wants to stop the AT&T / T-Mobile merger at any cost.

Meena’s company is the nation’s largest privately-owned wireless carrier.  Meena testified with other NoTakeOver members at a Senate hearing last week, strenuously urging that the merger be killed by the FCC and DoJ.  Getting there, he had to paint a dire picture – that consumers would suffer, jobs would diminish, Internet innovation would end, and the wireless industry would tank – if the merger gets the official OK from regulators.

His relationship with NoTakeOver is particularly odd in that his new friends – especially those at New America Foundation, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project – want to crush companies like his with “light touch” Net Neutrality regulations recently imposed by the FCC.

From the moment those Internet regulations got announced last December, New America Foundation, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project started grumbling like petulant children who didn’t get exactly what they asked for on their birthday.  “Sure,” they huffed, “the rules are better than nothing.  But we demand more.  FCC, you’ve come up short!”

In their view, the only way to ensure that the Internet remains “open” is through 19th Century rules that check the sure-to-be “evilness” of network providers…like Cellular South.

Thankfully, the FCC’s rules don’t go that far – that is, for the time being.  But, this hasn’t stopped the group.

The Soros-friendlies continue their work, spinning their yarn that the Internet is broken.  This at a time when access to broadband through a multitude of means has become virtually universal, making the Internet robust, innovative and consumer-friendly without a centralized (and corruptible) cop on the beat.

With their latest manufactured group, NoTakeOver, they seek to exploit the AT&T / T-Mobile merger to impose regulations that they couldn’t otherwise achieve before.  In doing so, they’ll also realize a hefty return on their investment for themselves, too.

This comes straight out of the “consumer advocate” playbook: 1. See a corporate business plan that needs government’s blessing; 2. Create a “grassroots” coalition to oppose it; and 3. Create enough of a headache for those corporations so that they’ll agree to most anything to get the “consumer advocates” off their backs.

It’s a proven strategy.  Not only have the misanthropes helped bring about innovation-killing, resource-draining regulations on the communications industry (as in “light touch” Internet regulation, or the Comcast / NBC-U Merger “Agreement”), the non-profit groups have profited handsomely from their efforts in this milieu, raking in millions over the past five years alone simply by opposing corporations they don’t like.

So, why would any company work with these miscreants?

One can only surmise that Hu Meena (and NoTakeOver funder, Sprint, for that matter) believes he has a better shot at crying to policymakers to “protect” himself than in controlling his own fate by actually competing in the marketplace for market share.

Or, perhaps it’s a cynical bargaining position designed to yield, well, who-knows-what for his company.

Whatever the reason, anyone that sides with the likes of New America Foundation, Public Knowledge and Media Access Project is playing Russian Roulette.  Though Cellular South is Meena’s to control, if the misanthropes had their way, the wireless provider would be the public’s property, and Meena just a GS-15 public servant.

That’s because, in their view, the Internet is simply too important to let private companies control.

Private companies built the medium to its greatness today, but that’s not good enough for those at NoTakeOver.  That cuts them and their friends on the Hill, at the agencies and in academia out of the picture, which is not acceptable for the control fetishists that they are.

They cannot accept that a vibrant marketplace always presents hurdles for competitors; that it’s tough out there.  That said, within this (albeit imperfect) framework, the spontaneous order of lawfully-run markets remains the primary – and least corruptible – force in choosing winners and deciding where limited resources should be apportioned.  It has made the world far better off than any amount of central planning ever could.

Meena should know that his new friends stand against that.  Firmly.

They want to tip the scale in favor of those they favor, even if it means hamstringing private property, or redistributing wealth and resources to other less-deserving entities, or further distorting the free marketplace so that it is somehow “fair” and “equitable.”

Sadly, once this episode is over – however it turns out – they’ll expect Meena to leave his money on the dresser and scram.

That’s what strange bedfellows do to their marks, Johns and Hu’s.


amusselm May 22, 2011 at 7:31 am

The thing is, markets require competition. That’s something that doesn’t really exist in the home Internet industry and just barely exists in mobile data. Where I live, there’s only one choice for any Internet that is faster than 56kbps. If they started filtering or prioritizing traffic in a way that I do not like… tough. Thus, net neutrality regulations are necessary in order to preserve neutrality. Either that, or find a way to introduce market competition. Over in Europe, the people who maintain the coax/copper/fiber that runs to your house are not necessarily the people who buy up Internet throughput and sell it to you. By requiring the infrastructure companies to sell throughput to outsiders, we can create a real market for home and small business Internet. Either of these solutions works for me, although I think I would prefer abstracting the ISP away from the last mile infrastructure. What isn’t going to work is an unregulated monopoly.

Competition also makes a pretty good reason to oppose the T-Mobile and AT&T merger. However, I think you are right on Cellular South’s involvement. I think it’s just an effort to score some spectrum for their operations. Would you happen to know if Cellular South is GSM or CDMA? They might also be worried about being shut out of roaming agreements and whatnot.

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