The Issue

Thanks to practices like data caps and throttling, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the control broadband providers can have on their ability to get online. What’s nearly impossible to explain is how businesses and anchor institutions like schools, libraries and hospitals can be subject to the same anti-competitive practices; in fact, just about every American business pays a hidden tax for broadband access – to the tune of about $20 billion per year. The challenge for Glen Echo Group was to try to get people to care about something most can’t see or understand – something called “special access lines” or “business broadband services” – and tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fix it despite objections from the nation’s most dominant telecom providers.

The Strategy

BeClever. Tragically boring (with apologies to telecommunications regulatory attorneys everywhere) and maddeningly complex, a campaign about “special access” wasn’t going to win America’s hearts and minds. So we created a rather unorthodox campaign around a parody of pharmaceutical marketing. Funny enough to get people to pay attention and familiar enough to tap into every consumer’s and business’ frustration, the campaign highlighted the symptoms of “broadband access control” – a terrible (fictional) disease plaguing consumers and anchor institutions alike – and its cure, COMPETIFY. We set a new stage with more accessible, understandable language with which people could talk about (and understand) the problem, its effects and the cure. We showed consumers that, with the help of COMPETIFY, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could relieve our business broadband woes.

Once the campaign was created, Glen Echo Group then quarterbacked our allies and partners, telling their stories to the media and influencers. Our work in coordinating each of the campaign’s “Partners for the Cure” allowed us to leverage each member organization's individual strengths and core constituencies to drive home the message.

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The Result

As a direct result of our campaign, the FCC conducted the largest data collection in its history. This resulted in a number of proposed rulemakings seeking to address the market’s anti-competitive bottleneck – the first time in over a decade that the FCC moved to act. People still ask us about the lady in the bathtub who graced Washington buses and airports in 2016.


"Glen Echo Group… has gained recognition over the years… for coalition-building efforts and ability to unite a diverse team of public interest advocates and top corporations around a divisive policy issue, even when they don’t see eye to eye on virtually anything else."

Jennifer Martinez, The Hill, Tech Policy Warrior