money-congress-lobbying

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Policy


Newly released lobbying figures show that broadband providers are still far outpacing Internet companies on spending in D.C., as federal regulators consider how to write new rules for Internet lines.

Collectively, Internet service providers (and their trade associations) have spent $42.4 million so far this year lobbying lawmakers and regulators, according to federal disclosure forms. In the second quarter, Comcast* spent $4.45 million on lobbying, while the cable industry’s trade group, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, spent another $4 million.

Internet companies have spent significantly less on lobbying, some $25.9 million so far this year. About a third of that total was spent by Google, which increased its spending in the second quarter to $5.03 million, compared to $3.82 million in the first three months of the year.

isps q2 2014 lobbying

The discrepancy between the spending by the two industries — which is nothing new — continues to be a potential problem for net neutrality advocates who are hoping to convince federal regulators to adopt strong rules on Internet lines to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against some traffic.

Net neutrality advocates have passion on their side — last week the Federal Communications Commission announced it had received a total of 1.07 million comments about its controversial fast-lane net neutrality plan, which would allow Internet providers to charge content companies for prioritized service to subscribers. But the newly released lobbying figures show that broadband providers continue to far outspend companies that support stronger net neutrality rules.

That’s not a huge surprise, since broadband companies are determined to stop FCC officials from regulating Internet lines under Title II of the Communications Act, which was written with old phone networks in mind. Re-regulating Internet lines might be a more legally sound way of adopting net neutrality rules, but broadband providers don’t want their networks to be subject to other parts of the law, such as price regulations and requirements to offer wholesale access to competitors.

Even Internet companies that support net neutrality rules — notably Google, Facebook and Microsoft — didn’t come out in favor of re-regulating Internet lines under Title II in comments filed last week. Google and Facebook didn’t even file individual comments, relying instead on their trade association to express their views.

It’s not clear from the filing how much time and money was spent on lobbying about net neutrality and companies on both sides of the debate have plenty of other issues they’re using lobbyists to help them solve. Comcast is trying to convince regulators to let it acquire Time Warner Cable, just as AT&T wants the okay to purchase DirecTV. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook lobbyists are spending much of their time on privacy and national security issues surrounding the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program.

*Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit is an investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.



4 comments
TKList
TKList

Net neutrality is BS.

Deregulate the Cable industry at the local, state and federal level.

This will increase competition and produce better service at a lower price.

mknopp
mknopp

@TKList This is a naive comment.


The problem with relying on the free market to regulate the cable/ISP industry is that it isn't a free market in any way shape or form.


Virtually every locality has granted a monopoly to their cable/ISP providers.


When I contacted my city about trying for Google's fiber network I was told that do to exclusivity agreements with the local cable/ISP provider that Google couldn't come into our town.


This was f@&*ing Google with billions of dollars and they would not be allowed to compete with our local cable/ISP provider.

It is a similar although slightly different story with teleco/ISPs. There it is more about gaining right of way to lay cables and even then there is the last mile problem.


So, this fantasy of the free market sorting out abuses by the cable industry is a dream no more real than fairies and unicorns. The only way for consumers to protect themselves is for the government to regulate the cable industry's ISP operations.


I hate that it is necessary, but free market controls cannot work when there is no free market, like in the cable/ISP industry.

Bardo
Bardo

@TKList - It's simply not that easy in the real world.  


Is the local government supposed to allow literally any company to run cables on public telephone poles?  If not, how would they get their service to the customer?  What about when the infrastructure gets too congested to support any new cabling?  It would would quickly become a logistical (and legal) nightmare.


It's not exactly cheap to run new infrastructure to hundreds of thousands of people.  The only way cable companies have been able to do it is with government subsidies.  Would you offer those to any new services?


The point would be moot if cable companies were running their infrastructure as dumb-pipes to allow the competition to use their infrastructure.  But the only way that's going to happen is with MORE regulation, not less.


What we really need is one or more of three options:


1) net neutrality laws that force the (essentially monopoly) ISP's we have now to play fair with other online services that they might compete against.


2) laws that implement something akin to what MVNO laws are doing for wireless companies that would force cable companies to farm bandwidth on their netowrks out to other ISP startups at a reasonable price.


3) cities take ownership of their own internet infrastructure and simply provide interconnections for the various media providers and ISP's.  Then residents would pay for the infrastructure as a utility and services would be able to compete against one another without having to build out the infrastructure.

J. S. Greenfield
J. S. Greenfield

@mknopp You were given completely erroneous information by whomever you spoke to at your city.  Exclusive franchises were banned more than two decades ago.

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