Democrats, Internet firms lobby FCC on net neutrality

The lobbying fight over new net neutrality regulations took another turn, with dozens of House Democrats urging the FCC to proceed with caution as it crafts proposed regulations. Meanwhile, major Internet firms and consumer advocacy groups petitioned the commission to stand firm in its commitment to an open Internet.

In a letter sent Friday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, 72 House Democrats said that the FCC should "carefully consider the full range of potential consequences that government action may have on network investment." They also said that "we would urge you to avoid tentative conclusions which favor government regulation" and that "we remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth that we all seek to achieve." The letter is notable because so far the main Congressional opposition to net neutrality regulations--which would apply to both wireless and wireline telecom companies--has came from Republicans.

The FCC is set to vote on proposed regulations Thursday. However, the vote is for proposed rules, and will only be the beginning of what is likely to be a months-long process, as both sides of the debate add their comments on the regulations.

Meanwhile, in the wake of a wave of opposition to net neutrality regulations from the likes of union leaders and infrastructure vendors, net neutrality proponents voiced their support of the proposal.

"We believe a process that results in common sense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation and global competitiveness," wrote 24 CEOs and Internet company founders in a letter to the FCC. The CEOs included Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Evan Williams and Genachowski's former boss, Barry Diller of IAC/InteractiveCorp.      

The consumer rights group Free Press also chimed in, noting that this is merely the beginning of what is likely to be a protracted fight. "We want to remind members of Congress and the other lawmakers that have come out of the woodwork this week to question net neutrality, that the benefits of a free and open Internet to free speech, economic innovation and democratic participation are absolutely invaluable to their constituents in the digital age," Ben Scott, Free Press's policy director, said in a statement. "Further, this is merely the beginning of a process, not the end. Their concerns are precisely the kind of issues that the FCC is prepared to debate and discuss in its rulemaking. It should move forward as planned."

For more
- see this WSJ article on the Democrats (sub. req.)
- see this WSJ article on the Internet firms (sub. req.)

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