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Free Press ad: FCC selling out to telecom, cable

Public interest group Free Press took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post Wednesday criticizing the Federal Communications Commission for meeting behind closed doors with the Internet access and service giants to cut a deal that could potentially help it avoid broadband regulations.

The media reform advocacy group said the nation’s communications watchdog is acting like other government officials who are “catering to big business instead of protecting American people – just like they did before the BP oil disaster and the financial crisis.”

Earlier this week, FCC Chief of Staff Eddie Lazarus and other senior officials gathered with the lead policy executives for AT&T, Verizon, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Google and Skype to work out an agreement on narrow legislation on net neutrality – a proposed FCC rule that would force broadband service providers to treat all Web traffic equally.

A source at the meeting on Tuesday said the parties were "far apart" on net neutrality and other issues. Analyst Rebecca Arbogast of Stifel Nicholaus said even if the parties do come up with an agreement, it is unlikely Congress would take up a law on net neutrality anytime soon.

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast oppose the rule, saying they need more flexibility to manage network congestion. Google and Skype rely on rules that would stop carriers from blocking their and other applications on the Web.

An agreement would help the FCC avoid a proposal to assert its authority over broadband by redefining it as a phone service. The FCC arguably could not pursue its net neutrality policy and its goal to expand broadband connections without doing so.

Free Press said it and other public interest groups weren’t invited to the private meetings. The group spent more than spent $42,000 for the ad.

“Despite the chairman’s campaign to be transparent, it's doing the same things as the previous administration,” said Josh Silver, head of Free Press.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 23, 2010; 10:07 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband , FCC , Google , Net Neutrality , Verizon  
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Where does a "nonprofit" group get $42,000 to spend on a single ad? Clearly, it's getting big bucks from Google, whose agenda it trumpets at every opportunity. And Cecilia Kang, likewise, appears to be lobbying for Google in print. Note that she again presents the messages of Google lobbying group Free Press utterly uncritically.

The Commission's exclusive closed door meetings are innapropriate, but so is Ms. Kang's biased journalism.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | June 23, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The FCC meeting made a lot of sense. The recent federal court ruling that cast doubt on the FCC's authority over broadband lines opens the door for protracted lawsuits in opposition to any new FCC network neutrality regulations by any stakeholders who oppose them. Depending on the content of that regulation, those lawsuits might be successful. For that reason a new federal law is the prudent way to define FCC’s regulatory authority over the Internet anyway.

Such legislation could take years to pass in a contentious environment. It makes sense to explore the possibility of a consensus that could serve as the basis for that legislation, speed its passage, and provide regulatory certainty in the meantime.

There is little reason to fear that the FCC might cave in to industry lobbyists. The FCC has been a consistent and strong proponent and enforcer of the network neutrality that consumers currently enjoy. Internet companies that are very strong proponents of network neutrality themselves were also in this first meeting, so the views of groups with similar views, such as Free Press, were represented. The FCC has also announced that there will be subsequent meetings with other stakeholders, so everybody’s voice will be heard.

Our nation faces serious challenges in the Internet/telecommunications arena. Among them are the fact that many consumers still do not have broadband Internet access at all (or cannot afford it). In addition the adoption of mobile broadband is growing dramatically, and we will soon run out of available spectrum appropriate for this use. By contrast a recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 53% of adults oppose FCC regulation of the Internet, with another 19% not sure whether it’s a good idea or not. If the network neutrality issue could be resolved by a consensus approach, the FCC would also be able to focus more of its resources on the aforementioned serious challenges, which would benefit everybody. In any event, there's nothing to be lost by trying.

Bruce Hahn
American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance

Posted by: bhahn | June 23, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It is time that the Government for the People be returned to the people. The government sold the Internet in the US back in 2002, when it blocked independent providers out of broadband by reclassifying it then. It is owned by The major Telco’s and the major cable companies. If you think otherwise try and get service through some other independent company. Fact of the mater is that since the FCC made changes in 2002 more than 5000 independent ISPs have gone out of business and over 100,000 employees lost their jobs, because they can not get access to broadband. The lines that the Telco’s use were basically paid for by taxpayer money with tax incentives they were given to put broadband into all parts of the US. The amount is in excess of 200 billion dollars, but they have not done what they promised and one wonders where the money went to. There are a few wireless ISPs like Brent Glass but they are few and will probably go the way the other independents went as more changes are made. The chairman at the FCC at the time (2002) now co chairs a Broadband lobby group that receives its funding from most if not all of the Telco’s and cable companies. He is probably receiving a handsome thank you.
Look at the items in your life, the prices of some have gotten out of control, how much are those industries spending on lobbying. Are your best interests being represented in Washington?

Posted by: rfceo | June 24, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

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