Who's against Net neutrality? Follow the money

The cable industry has not been shy about handing out campaign donations to Congress. So guess who's sending letters to the FCC arguing against Net neutrality?

Forget big data -- in the case of Net neutrality, just a little bit of data tells a compelling story. Last week, the nonpartisan research organization MapLight, which focuses on campaign financing, sent me a handful of numbers that indicate just how heavily the cable industry has backed members of Congress who oppose FCC reclassification of the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

Reclassification of the Internet as a public utility is one of the only options left after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the FCC's Net neutrality rules in January. This reclassification would ensure the cable industry treats all data on the Internet equally -- or, as the clever "No Slow Lane" campaign puts it, prevent those who own and operate the infrastructure from relegating those who can't afford to pay the piper to a sluggish, lower-tier Internet.

[ InfoWorld's Robert X. Cringely defends the FCC's Net neutrality approach, and InfoWorld's Serdar Yegulalp explains what's in the proposal and what the FCC's net neutrality proposal really means. | Pick up expert networking how-to advice from InfoWorld's Networking Deep Dive PDF special report and Technology: Networking newsletter. ]

Aside from those who would profit directly from setting up Internet toll lanes, who's opposed to the reclassification? In the U.S. Congress, 28 representatives have signed letters to the FCC arguing against the reclassification. According to MapLight, these folks "have received, on average, $26,832 from the cable industry, 2.3 times more money than the average for all members of the House of Representatives, $11,651."

For your enlightenment, here are the top five recipients of contributions from cable interests who signed letters opposing reclassification, again courtesy of MapLight:

  • Greg Walden (R-Ore) has recieved $109,250
  • Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has received $80,800
  • John Boehner (R-Ohio) has received $75,450
  • Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has received $65,000
  • John Barrow (D-Ga.) has received $60,500

This is not a partisan issue. MapLight observes that house minority leader Nancy Pelosi owns more stock in Comcast than any other member of the House of Representatives. As VentureBeat noted last week, "Pelosi isn't exploiting her leadership position to galvanize support for the cause."

At InfoWorld, we've given plenty of digital ink to the Net neutrality saga. Paul Venezia in particular has tirelessly dogged this story. In two of his more recent posts, he slammed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's initial proposal and noted that venture capitalists have already started reining in investments in startups involving video and low-latency applications.

What makes Net neutrality so vital in the United States in particular is that our broadband infrastructure lags behind that of most of the industrialized world. The only way to put in fast lanes is to create slow lanes, because the pie of bandwidth is less per capita compared to that of many other countries and expanding slowly. The telecommunications industry has dragged its feet in building out infrastructure, despite billions in subsidies from state and federal government to do just that.

In fact, killing Net neutrality and allowing the telecommunications industry to tier its services provides a direct disincentive to build out infrastructure. Premium pricing increases revenues without a dime being spent on expanding the pie. And as lower-tier customers suffer progressively more, they'll be forced to pay more to get decent service.

Make your voice heard. The FCC will be soliciting comments on its proposal until Sept. 10. Short comments can be submitted through this form on the FCC website; use this form if you would like to include an attachment. The FCC has also set up an email address specifically for comments on this issue: openinternet@fcc.gov.

This article, "Who's against Net neutrality? Follow the money," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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