Free Press Pushed Hard Against Waxman Bill - Broadcasting & Cable

Free Press Pushed Hard Against Waxman Bill

Threatened to exit net coalition if it endorsed compromise
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When House
Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman thanked
stakeholders for trying to come to consensus on compromise network
neutrality legislation, he gave shout-outs to the Consumer Federation
of America, Consumers Union, Public Knowledge, and the Center for
Democracy for their "steadfast advocacy". Notably absent from that list
was steadfast advocate Free Press.

Republicans
were cited by some Democratic legislators as the principle opponents of
Waxman's compromise bill. For example, Sen. Byron Dorgan said it was
Republicans who had "abandoned efforts at compromise,"
But it turns out Free Press was no fan of this particular compromise,
either.

The bill
would have prevented the FCC from reclassifying broadband, instead
legislating most of the FCC's network neutrality proposals, but with
some carveouts and caveats that did not sit well with
the group.

According to
a copy of the e-mail obtained by B&C, Free Press President Josh
Silver warned the Open Internet Coalition that if it supported the
Waxman bill, Free Press, which is a member, would pull
out.

OIC had
been at the table at various negotiations over the bill, but Free Press
had its own representative at the Waxman negotiations and wanted to make sure that it was
clear OIC
was not speaking for them.

Silver told
B&C/Multi that Free Press had gotten word OIC was going to back the
bill, and sent the following e-mail to OIC members:

Hi OIC friends,

Free Press opposes this bill, and there are many others who share that position.

If an OIC-branded presser goes out tomorrow in
support of the Waxman bill, Free Press will be forced to withdraw from
the coalition for the reasons we have articulated during the past week.
Free Press cannot afford to be misconstrued as supporting
a bill that strips FCC rulemaking authority, fails to sufficiently
protect wireless, and forecloses the agency's ability to enact key goals
of the NBP such as USF and low-income broadband deployment... to name a
few. While we have deep respect for all of those
from our community who worked tirelessly over the past few weeks on
this effort, we have a strong disagreement with the assessment of this
legislation as a positive, both on the merits and on the strategy.

I don't think the benefits of an OIC presser in support of a doomed bill is worth the cost, but that's not my call.

Silver confirmed it was his e-mail. "It is," he said,
"but it is nuanced. As an internal e-mail it doesn't explain the fact
that our position when e-mailing that to the OIC list was really much
more about the idea that there had been an announcement
to the list that the presser was going out the following day endorsing
the Waxman bill from OIC [the press release did not go out, he says, and
Free Press remains in OIC].

He says the e-mail was "a reflection of the fact that it
was a complicated bill and a complicated set of issues that we don't
feel comfortable with anybody, OIC or anybody else, commenting on our
behalf.

But it is obvious from the e-mail that Free Press is
strongly opposed to the bill. "We believe that some of the provisions
are problematic for sure. We had concerns that the bill could dissuade
commission from doing what it needs to do, and now
needs to do even more so after the failure of the introduction of this
bill, which is to reclassify and codify net neutrality and make good on
the president's promise."

Silver says that if FCC Chairman Julius Genachowsk does
not reclassify he will be considered one of the most forgettable
chairmen in history and if he does, one of the best. "It's that simple."

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