THE FIX IS IN – F.C.C. Flips on Net Neutrality

When running for office in 2007, the then junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was asked the following: 

“Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land?  And would you pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support open internet principals like net neutrality?”

Senator Obama responded, “The answer is yes.  I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.”

Obama_FingerObama campaigned that if elected President net neutrality would be a priority in his first year in office and he would prioritize enacting rules barring providers of broadband service like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T from prioritizing Internet content.

That was 2007.

Net neutrality is an idea where all Internet content is treated the same…equally…as it travels through your cable or telephone company’s wires.  If the Internet content is legal, consumers should have equal access to the content they choose without having to pay for its access.  Sort of like a radio station.  Everyone has equal access to its signal.

Said another way, without net neutrality, big content companies can pay for high speed access to you. The bottom line?  You would pay more for access to their content.  So if you’re a subscriber to NetFlix, which cut a deal with Comcast earlier this year for high speed access, they will pass the additional costs to you.

The smaller content companies and innovators in the digital space who can’t afford the fees for high speed access would lose equal access to you.

The F.C.C. has repeatedly said they support net neutrality, while cable and telephone broadband companies are lobbying ($$$) for the right to build these high speed lanes so they can stick it to content providers and ultimately to you.

Using two Federal Appeals Court rulings that eliminate net neutrality rules as cover, the F.C.C. said this week they would come up with new guidelines allowing broadband companies to build these high speed data channels.  Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C chairman, said the commission was not “gutting the open Internet rule,” but simply providing for net neutrality in accordance with the appeals court’s decisions.

Here’s where the fix comes in.

lobbyistsFrom 2009-2011, Meredith Baker was one of five F.C.C. commissioners.  Commissioners are appointed by the President, in this case President Obama (remember how he answered about appointing commissioners who were proponents of net neutrality).  Baker has always opposed net neutrality, feeling it was unneeded, expressing concern over onerous regulations on telephone and cable companies.  She left the commission to take a job with Comcast as their “Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs for NBC Universal.”  That’s a fancy title for a lobbyist.  Right before she left, she voted to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. Some might conclude she cashed in.  Comcast is going to make big money from the ground work she did to make sure net neutrality went away and the yet to be approved merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable happens as planned.

From 2009-2013 Julius Genachowski was the Chairman of the F.C.C.  He was for net neutrality and dealt with the issue numerous times while in office.  He left the F.C.C. in 2013 and joined The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, as the Managing Director of its U.S. buyout team.  His focus?  You guessed it.  Media, telecom, the Internet and mobile.

In November of 2013 Tom Wheeler became Chairman of the F.C.C.  Let’s cut to the quick on this guy. His resume shows he worked as a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, was President of the National Cable Television Association and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association.  After taking office, Wheeler spoke of a “Network Compact.”  He said these were principles of “access, interconnection and the encouragement and enablement of the public-purpose benefits of our networks (including public safety and national security).”  But, later he said, “I think we’re also going to see a two-sided market where NetFlix might say, ‘Well I’ll pay in order to make sure that you might receive, my subscriber receives, the best possible transmission of this movie.”  Tom was trying to make both the consumer and his lobbyist friends happy.

The epilog of this story:

  • Four other F.C.C. employees went with Meredith Baker to Comcast.
  • Today 12 people are registered lobbyists for Comcast, five have spent time working for the F.C.C.
  • Baker is leaving Comcast and will soon become the President and CEO of a wireless lobby.
  • The idea of net neutrality is dead, killed by big companies, big money and lobbyists.
  • Soon you will pay increased fees for access to the most popular online content.
  • Innovation and creativity in the digital space will be retarded.
  • The small guys will be pushed out.  The big guys will get bigger.
  • President Obama lied to you.

And that’s how Washington works to benefit a few and against you.

  1 comment for “THE FIX IS IN – F.C.C. Flips on Net Neutrality

  1. ebrew79
    April 24, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    You mean the Democratic Party sold out for the interests of Big Business! No Way. Really though, thanks for the column.

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