The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to approve a wildly controversial Net Neutrality policy that will regulate and tax the Internet intensely, much like the old AT&T telephone monopoly. To help secure political support, Chairman Tom Wheeler made last-minute revisions at the request of Google, according to Politico‘s sources at the Commission.
Congress, conservatives and even liberals who were once advocates for Net Neutrality are frantic over rumors and innuendos about what secret language might be in the most far-reaching and intrusive regulatory action of the 21st century.
It has now been reported that Google and its allies at the Free Press and New America’s Open Technology were uniquely given a copy of the 332 page document shortly before the vote, and allowed to offer tweaks to the rules that may be extraordinarily self-serving.
According to Politico, “Google executives on Feb. 19 called aides to Wheeler and staffers for the FCC’s two other Democratic commissioners–Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel–to make their case, according to a company disclosure. Clyburn has been the most vocal proponent of the revisions inside the commission, the sources said.”
Going only to the Democrats on the Commission seems highly suspicious, since Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt spent the last twelve weeks as one of only 11 members on the “Democratic Victory Task Force,” according to a document just leaked by the Naked Capitalism blog. Schmidt helped craft the “National Narrative Project” to serve as the key strategy for the Democratic Party to “fight to reclaim state houses, win governorships, take back the House and Senate and protect the White House.” He is also a leading force behind fwd.US, a tech community effort to push immigration reform.
Google’s requested rule changes, which were apparently accepted by the three Democrats on the five-member FCC board, came to light less than 24 hours before the historic FCC vote. Politico warns, “The last-minute revisions, however, demonstrate the growing influence of Google, which has become a major lobbying presence in Washington.”
Republican FCC member Ajit Pai has said the two Republican Commissioners oppose the new rules, because “Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation.” On January 14, 2014, the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals struck down most of the FCC’s November 2011 Net Neutrality rules. The Appellate Court vacated the FCC’s “anti-discrimination” and “anti-blocking” as essentially discriminatory, empowering FCC political appointees to dictate what content they believe is honest, equitable, and balanced.
FCC Chair Wheeler three weeks ago said. “Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.” Wheeler added, “These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.”
The FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations may provide the “strongest open internet protections,” but those equal protections may be much more equal for Google.