THE LEDE: More and more Internet companies are looking to Wednesday to pressure the Federal Communications Commission into writing strong net neutrality rules.
Netflix, Meetup, Reddit and Etsy are among the websites taking part in Wednesday’s symbolic “Internet Slowdown” by using the “loading” symbol to raise alarms about the perils of “fast lanes” online. The protest was organized by activist groups Demand Progress, Engine, Free Press Action Fund and Fight for the Future. Other organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn and Greenpeace are also taking part, though none of the sites will actually be slowing the loading speed of their pages.
“The FCC’s current proposal surrounding the issue of net neutrality threatens the concept of a free and open Internet,” Meetup general counsel David Pashman said in a statement. “The FCC’s proposal would create a two-tiered Internet with slow lanes (for most companies) and fast lanes (for those willing and able to pay for it). This two-tiered system fundamentally alters the nature of the Internet as an open platform for innovation and entrepreneurship and threatens the economic growth that it has supported.”
Craig Aaron, CEO of the Free Press Action Fund, said that Wednesday would be “the day to stand with Internet users everywhere and demand real net neutrality.”
Pressure is building on the FCC to ban deals between Internet service providers and websites to speed up users’ traffic, even while cable companies warn that tough regulations would undermine the freedom of the Internet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the commission on Monday to reclassify broadband Internet providers so that they can be regulated like traditional phone companies, a controversial step that would almost certainly draw a lawsuit. Companies like Netflix and many consumer advocacy groups have also said that the FCC should reclassify broadband.
“If the FCC fails to preserve the net neutrality rules that have been the norm in this country for most of the Internet’s existence, the continued viability of the U.S.’s robust technology sector will be in jeopardy,” said Evan Engstrom, policy director for the startup advocacy group Engine. “The FCC must reclassify broadband as a Title II service if it wants an Internet without slow lanes and fast lanes.”
Matsui to hold net neutrality forum: Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is bringing two Democratic FCC commissioners to Sacramento later this month for a forum on net neutrality. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel will attend the Sept. 24 event, which Matsui said will help bring the country’s voice to the FCC.
“I believe that it is essential that the FCC listen to and engage with Americans outside of Washington,” she said in a statement announcing the forum. “I am very pleased that FCC Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel will be joining me in Sacramento to participate in this forum on net neutrality. Their leadership will be crucial moving forward on this important issue facing our innovation economy.”
Advertisers tell Senate to change channel on TV bill: Advertising industry trade groups told the Senate Commerce Committee in a letter on Monday that they have “serious concerns” with the panel’s bill to overhaul the current way that people get TV channels. The bill, which would introduce an “a la carte” model to buying broadcast channels like NBC and CBS, would be a “radical transformation” that could “erode the entire national system for audience measurement that is essential to the economics of the current system,” wrote the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.
“We would encourage you to proceed with caution before reaching agreement on this proposal and specifically to invite the views of the national and local advertising and media buying organizations to better understand how they and the system for providing financial support for programming would be affected,” they added.
The bill, which committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) attached to the reauthorization of an otherwise uncontroversial satellite TV law, has been the subject of fierce debate since it was unveiled a month ago. Despite the opposition from some quarters, Rockefeller on Monday said he was sticking by his measure. “It is the future,” he told The Hill, while declining to give odds on whether it could get done this year. “It’s unstoppable.”
FCC commissioner heads to Wiley Rein: Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell joined the Wiley Rein law firm to focus on communication practice. At the Washington firm, McDowell will join three other former FCC commissioners, including former Chairman Richard Wiley, who led the agency from 1970 to 1977. In a statement, Wiley lauded McDowell’s “distinguished record of service at the FCC” noting his work on Internet governance and spectrum management.
Y Combinator gets some lobbyists: Startup funder Y Combinator is dipping its toe in Washington. The Silicon Valley venture capital giant hired Venture Politics to lobby on immigration reform for high-skilled workers, according to a new lobbying disclosure report. The filing mentions the concept of a startup visa, a proposed new way to allow entrepreneurs to come to the U.S.
House Judiciary to mark up trade secrets bill: The House Judiciary Committee will take a crack at the Trade Secrets Protection Act on Wednesday morning, the panel announced. The bill comes from a bipartisan group of six committee lawmakers and would give companies additional legal room to go after thieves that steal their secrets.