Monday, May 3, 2010

Net Neutrality Advocates Go to the Mattresses Following WaPo Genachowski Report 05/03/2010 San Francisco - The "network neutrality" national policy debate just got a lot more more interesting. 
Photo: HBO Films
With Free Press in the lead, net neutrality advocates have today reacted strongly to this morning's report in the Washington Post that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski is backing away from the the idea of "reclassifiying" the regulatory schema for broadband services.

As  Free Press and its public interest allies go to the proverbial mattresses for an internecine policy fight, Obama Administration officials will no doubt recall the challenges and triumphs in keeping its own coalition together during the healthcare reform battle.  Free Press and its associated interest groups are first and foremost part of the Democratic political coalition of which the President is himself the leader.

WaPo Story 'Energizes' Free Press
"If the report is true," said Free Press spokesperson Liz Rose in a telephone interview "it is certainly a watershed moment."  Rose also confirmed for us that Free Press today, in the wake of the WaPo article, immediately stepped-up its online campaign to publicly lobby the FCC to move toward broadband regulatory reclassification.  "Some of this is perhaps energized by the rumors" attributed to anonymous sources at FCC, said Rose.

In a release of this morning Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver minced no words in saying, "We simply cannot believe that Julius Genachowski would consider going down this path."

"Failing to reclassify broadband means the FCC is abandoning the signature communications and technology issues of the Obama administration. Such a decision would destroy Net Neutrality. It would deeply undermine the FCC’s ability to ensure universal Internet access for rural, low-income and disabled Americans. It will undermine the FCC’s ability to protect consumers from price-gouging and invasions of privacy, said Silver."

The organization's rapid reaction to the story by Post tech writer Cecilia Kang is particularly significant, given that Free Press has been in the forefront of Washington based public interest groups advocating for policies, especially "net neutrality," at the center of the Obama Administration's agenda for tech and telecom.  

Kang' story, titled FCC chairman Genachowski expected to leave broadband service deregulated, reports, "Three sources at the agency said Genachowski has not made a final decision but has indicated in recent discussions that he is leaning toward keeping in place the current regulatory framework for broadband services but making some changes that would still bolster the FCC's chances of overseeing some broadband policies." 

Public Knowledge Joins the Fray
Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the The New America Foundation together form the forward phalanx of liberal public interest advocates pushing an associated group of issues with an administration that has moved more rapidly to reshape related federal policies than at anytime since the passage of the Telecom Act in 1996.  

By early afternoon, Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge posted a blog update entitled Hamlet on 12th street (SW), making reference to FCC's Washington headquarters, in which he cast President Obama's FCC head as the tragic Dane.  Brodsky wrote, "The Melancholy Prince asked:  'To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer he slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?"

"That was the question then, and it’s the question now.  A new version:  Do you betray the bold concepts of the Obama campaign platform that you wrote for the chimera of political expediency?," concluded Brodsky.  

Group to Watch: Open Internet Coalition
The 3 groups both favor the interests of, and operate programs in large measure financed by, application developers, content producers, and competitive service providers as opposed to the interests of incumbent carriers and operators.

Working together these organizations are the policy Sherpas coordinating the Open Internet Coalition (OIC), an association of scores of corporations, research organizations, and public interest groups arguing in favor of new regulatory mandates favoring content neutral and open access treatment of service provider networks.

Corporate sponsors of OIC read like a Who's Who of leading web enabled U.S. tech companies, including Amazon, Google, Earthlink, eBay, Facebook,  Barry Diller's,, Netflix,, Andreesson Horowitz's Skype, SlingMedia, Ticketmaster, Tivo, Twitter, and Google's YouTube subsidiary.   

That's What Friends Are For: Another Challenge to Obama Administration
Kang's story will indeed be "watershed moment" if OIC and its member organizations are serious about engaging the Obama Administration anew on the issue of "net neutrality."  It is an issue that drives the fear of excessive network regulation at most investor-owned carriers, providers, and their trade associations.  Conversely, it is an issue on which the leading web players in the nation, as seen above, have placed their bets.  

It is not at all a coincidence that both Josh Silver and Art Brodsky pointedly talked of the "Obama Administration" in their statements of today, rather than merely calling on Chairman Genachowski to act as they would like.  Today's statements from, and immediate mobilization of, important parts of the coalition of that helped elect the 44th President signals that leaders of that coalition now calling directly on Obama and his key policy advisers.  They are demanding, with increasingly pointed rhetoric, that the President and his appointees deliver on past commitments made to them on the net neutrality issue.

This afternoon Free Press began sending out links in its Twitter feed to this 2007 speech by then Senator Obama to employees of Google in Mountain View, CA:

Going to the Mattresses for A Policy Fight
For some of the most well known names in the American technology sector, this one is important.  It is no less so for many, if not all, of the equally recognizable names in the telecom sub-sector.

For many leading players in technology, this issue means they and their Washington advocates will be going to the mattresses.  They will do so even at risk to the Democratic coalition in power.  Today's superlative reporting by Cecilia Kang amounts to the opening shot.     
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