Here's the dirty truth behind proposed rules gutting net neutrality the Federal Communications Commission will be considering next month: The FCC is "stocked with staffers" who just went through the revolving door from the internet service providers who would most benefit by the new rule. Lee Fang reports:
Take Daniel Alvarez, an attorney who has long represented Comcast through the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. In 2010, Alvarez wrote a letter to the FCC on behalf of Comcast protesting net neutrality rules, arguing that regulators failed to appreciate “socially beneficial discrimination.”Then there's Matthew DelNero, who was hired to work specifically on net neutrality. He used to work for an ISAP called TDS Telecom which has, of course, lobbied against net neutrality. One new advisor to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, (who used to be associate general counsel at Verizon and has called net neutrality a "problem in search of a solution" ) is Brendan Carr. Carr has worked for AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon and the U.S. Telecom Association, "a trade group that has waged war in Washington against net neutrality since 2006."
... Alvarez is now on the other side, working among a small group of legal advisors hired directly under Tom Wheeler, the new FCC Commissioner who began his job in November.
As soon as Wheeler came into office, he also announced the hiring of former Ambassador Philip Verveer as his senior counselor. A records request reveals that Verveer also worked for Comcast in the last year. In addition, he was retained by two industry groups that have worked to block net neutrality, the Wireless Association (CTIA) and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.
Chairman Wheeler, of course, came directly from lobbying for the telecommunications industry. There's obviously a high degree of expertise on telecommunications issues among all these people who seem to flow seamlessly between roles in industry and regulating that industry. But they aren't the only experts. There are dozens of people working in public interest groups who know these issues just as well who could be staffing the commission.
Given how stacked the commission is with Comcast, AT&T and telecommunications insiders, the commission might want to think about appearances and the increasing perception that it's ruled by industry, rather than the other way around. The FCC should reject Wheeler's proposal that gives their former bosses the big gift of the internet fast lane.
(Want to learn more about net neutrality and how we got here? This is a great explainer.)