Profits or principles? Google, Apple, and Samsung have made their choice

Undermining Net neutrality with right-wing billionaires, gouging customers, gaming test results -- witness tech's 'higher standards'

How can a company that famously claims "don't be evil" as its motto and wants to battle death itself crawl into bed with a powerful group of democracy-flouting, climate-change-denying right-wingers? How could a leading tech firm whose amazing inventions sparked the mobile revolution gouge its fantastically loyal customer base by overcharging for components? Not to be outdone, how could its chief rival fake benchmark results?

Maybe even good companies think it's OK to behave badly when profits are at stake. I understand that we wouldn't have great technology if the shareholders of Google, Apple, and Samsung didn't earn a solid return on their investment. That said, the hypocrisy of companies that claim to be saving the world makes me grind my teeth and want to toss a few eggs when the giant Google bus trundles through my San Francisco neighborhood.

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Silicon Valley's thousands (literally) of millionaires and (a few) billionaires strut their stuff and act as if the technological and business prowess makes them so different from the industrialists of an earlier era. But they're not.

Why Google partners with the Koch brothers

If you don't follow the political world fairly closely, you may not have heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, ALEC lobbies for the most extreme climate-unfriendly legislation, as well as a host of other conservative causes. The group actually writes legislation that its puppets in state legislatures around the country introduce nearly verbatim.

Why would Google give money to these folks? On the record, Google won't talk about this at all. But it does contribute money to the group, my sources have confirmed, for a clear reason that has nothing to do with climate. (Google, to its credit, has spent huge sums of money greening its data centers and headquarters.) ALEC, which opposes regulation of almost anything, has tried to stop state and federal regulators from, well, regulating almost anything that has to do with the Internet.

Last month I wrote about Verizon's plan to turn the Web into pay-for-view. I could have said it's also AT&T's plan, and it has everything to do with the Google-ALEC link as explained to me by a senior staffer at the California Public Utilities Commission.

ALEC has helped pass legislation in 24 states prohibiting the regulation of VoIP and IP-enabled services, telling the tech guys that "the CPUC was trying to regulate the Internet." Google, along with the other "geniuses," bought that argument, apparently without realizing they were supporting AT&T's longer-term move to extricate itself from any and all regulation. According to the regulator: "Once AT&T succeeds, and it will, Google and the geniuses will have little bargaining power against the reconstituted, and unregulated, AT&T monopoly."

Google has every right to fight for legislation it believes in, whether or not we agree with it. But climbing into bed with those clowns is reprehensible and, in the long run, self-defeating. If you like, you can sign a petition urging Google and other tech companies to get out of ALEC.

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