Lobbying Ends On Open Web Proposal

Now the FCC is set to rule on net neutrality regulations next week.

By Jamilah King Dec 14, 2010

There’s about a week left until the Federal Communications Commission issues its order on net neutrality rules, and with the official lobbying period ending Tuesday night, the matter over the Internet’s future seems far from settled. But, of course, they’re not saying so. Left-leaning Commissioner Mignon Clyburn lobbied for stronger protections last week by telling a crowd at the Practicing Law Institute’s annual telecommunications summit that she still "has many questions" about the proposal but that the commission is "very close" to a consensus. Yet so far it seems like the only consensus on the issue is that no one likes the proposal that’s on the table.

The net neutrality deal would determine what, if any, regulations would apply to telecom companies to prevent them from charging users for higher speeds or blocking content on their networks.

Chairman Julius Genachowski announced an outline of his long-awaited proposal at the beginning of December. The commission is scheduled to vote on December 21, and the proposal goes into a no-lobbying period until then.

As expected, onlookers on both sides of the issue have put in an intense amount of lobbying over the past two weeks in an effort to alter Genachowski’s proposal. Commissioners on both sides of the issue are still busy rallying support. On Monday, Republicans Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert McDowell vouched on the part of free market activists who claim the proposed rules are too stringent. Meanwhile, democratic Commissioners Clyburn and Michael Copps have rallied behind net neutrality advocates who say that the proposal isn’t strong enough on wireless protections.

The same goes for telecom companies, net neutrality advocates and companies like Facebook and Netflix, who all fall along various points along the net neutrality spectrum, ranging from staunchly against it to strongly in favor. On its policy blog, Verizon made its case that net neutrality advocates were simply acting too quickly, by using several examples said to point out the "irony of the continuing focus on ISP’s and net neutrality in today’s world where so much involvement on the Internet’s traffic flows is not by ISPs but rather by a host of other players."

Internet activist group Free Press has a different view. This week the organization flooded the FCC with over two million petition signatures in an effort to get the chairman to tighten up a proposal that the group called "toothless" and argued would "leave Internet users with almost nothing."