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Google CEO To FCC Chair: Thanks for Net Neutrality, Need a Hand With Broadband?

Last Friday, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt stopped by the Federal Communications Commission to say thanks to Chairman Julus Genachowski and senior staff for proposing new rules on net neutrality that the firm has long advocated.

Schmidt "expressed his appreciation to the chairman for his leadership in promoting open and robust access to the Internet, and indicated that Google welcomes the opportunity to participate actively as the full commission considers the Chairman's rulemaking proposal later this month," wrote Google's telecom and media counsel, Rick Whitt, in a mandatory public filing about the meeting.

The FCC's five commissioners are scheduled to vote early in 2010 on Genachowski's controversial proposal to codify and expand rules that would prevent Internet service providers from deliberately blocking or slowing legal content or applications on the Web. Strengthening net neutrality has been part of President Obama's technology agenda, and Genachowski's proposed new rules were praised by the president last week. The vote is scheduled for Feb 22.

The Oct. 2 sitdown appeared to be Schmidt's first meeting with Genachowski at the agency. A spokesman for Google did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Also present at the meeting were FCC chief of staff Edward Lazarus and Blair Levin, who is spearheading the agency's national broadband plan.

Long before Genachowski arrived at the FCC, Google had been one of the strongest corporate proponents of net neutrality rules. The search titan benefits when more people exchange information on the Web and use their mail, documents, mapping and mobile software applications.

The companies that operate Internet networks, however, have opposed net neutrality rules, saying tighter regulations would hurt their businesses. They argue that they need to act as traffic cops on the Web to ensure some users don't take up too much bandwidth, slowing down Web access for other users.

Google's director of public policy, Alan Davidson, and Whitt attended the meeting with Schmidt. They offered to help the FCC with its congressionally mandated assignment to develop by next February a plan for making high-speed Internet available to every U.S. home.

Google's offer of aid would include a "willingness to assist in developing a comprehensive record on broadband deployment and uptake," according to Whitt. "In that regard (Schmidt) noted several promising initiatives, including digital literacy pilot projects, which could help facilitate broadband adoption."

On Friday, Schmidt spoke at the Newseum for The Atlantc's First Draft of History conference, which it co-hosted with the Aspen Institute. Google has drawn greater attention from regulators in Washington in recent months. It has also been blamed for accelerating the newspaper industry's decline as it aggregates information from those newspapers without paying for the content.

In an interview published in the Search Engine Land blog last weekend, Schmidt said that the increased scrutiny comes with being such a disruptive company.

"And because we play such a central role in information, we've become somewhat used to being blamed for everything. In some cases people don't understand that we're a conduit to other people doing things. They think Google did it when in fact somebody else did it and made it available," he said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 6, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Republicans Step Up Opposition to Net Neutrality; House GOP Ask FCC For Data | Next: All Eyes on AT&T at CTIA; Will Ma Bell Let Skype Onto Its Networks?


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The fact that Google's Eric Schmidt could get an audience with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski -- while members of the public and small business owners who call the same office are dismissed or redirected to aides -- does not bode at all well for the "new" FCC.

It is of especially great concern that Google seems to have the Chairman's ear when it is lobbying for regulations that would help its (already multibillion dollar) bottom line at the expense of Internet users. And the "network neutrality" regulation that Google supports would not only increase the price of Internet service, reduce the quality of that service, and harm or even destroy competitive ISPs. It would also prevent another company from arising from a garage to compete with Google.

All of which indicates that the public must push back against the influence that Google has bought in DC.

Brett Glass
Owner and founder, LARIAT
The world's first Wireless ISP (WISP)

Posted by: squirma | October 6, 2009 9:53 AM

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