Both Sides Ramp Up As Neutral Net Meeting Approaches

Staffers brief Senate, House Commerce Committee staffers ahead of Thursday meeting

As the clock winds down to Thursday's (Oct. 22) FCC meeting on new network neutrality rules, both sides are winding up their lobbying campaigns, including taking shots at the
other side.

According to sources familiar with the meetings, FCC staffers briefed Senate and House Commerce Committee staffers late last week on the proposal to expand and codify Internet access guidelines and apply them to the wireless industry.

In those meetings, the FCC used data from a Max Planck Institute study that found that Comcast had blocked BitTorrent peer-to-peer uploads more than 2,500 times. But, according to those sources, who do not favor toughening net neutrality rules, they did not include a follow-up study by the same group, after Comcast had changed its network management methods, that found virtually no blocking.

Comcast's change came after the FCC had concluded the company had violated its existing guidelines and that its network management practices were arbitrary and capricious.

An FCC spokesperson had no comment on the Hill meetings or use of the study.

AT&T also sent a letter to employees calling on company employees and their families to weigh in at the FCC against regulating the Internet. It pointed out that the commission had waived rules prohibiting lobbying of commissioners in the seven days before it considers a public meeting agenda item, so long as that was done on the FCC's new open Internet blog. "The FCC has extended the period for receiving comments by allowing postings to its blog until Thursday, Oct. 22. Those who seek to impose extreme regulations on the network are flooding the site to influence the FCC. It's now time for you to voice your opinion!" the letter said.

The time may be short if some Civil Rights groups have their say. They have called on the FCC to rescind that waiver. They argue that waiving the rules only for people who can post and study the comments via the Internet is discriminatory and illegal.

But wait, there's more. A quintet of Internet pioneers, including Vint Cerf, have sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski saying they are "very pleased by your recent proposal to initiate a proceeding for the considerations of safeguards to that end." Virtually everyone on both sides say they support an open Internet, and even FCC Republicans concerned about overregulation do not oppose opening an inquiry to collect data on how that should be done.

The key will be how the FCC ends up defining network management and what practices that definition allows or appears to foreclose.

Some conservative Democrats have expressed their own concerns that the FCC not produce rules that discourage private investment and boost the price of broadband, thus widening the economic divide between Internet haves and have-nots.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said he is not looking to do anything to discourage that investment, or innovation, and has certainly spoken out on the need to close the divide through deployment and education and adoption initiatives.


Both Sides Now

FCC saw both pros and cons of dealing with D.C. federal appeals court with Tennis Channel case against Comcast