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Records reveal net neutrality chats between FCC and telecoms

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 23, 2014
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It's no secret that the FCC has at least a few links to the communications companies it's policing. Chairman Tom Wheeler is a former lobbyist, and commissioners have taken industry jobs mere months after leaving office. However, Vice News has obtained records showing that the two sides are frequently in direct contact -- and there's a concern that this may be affecting the net neutrality debate. For example, Cisco CEO John Chambers called Wheeler to endorse proposed net neutrality rules earlier this year. To him, they encourage new business models without imposing "onerous regulation." Chief Comcast lobbyist Kathy Zachem, meanwhile, gave the FCC's top lawyer advance notice of Republican objections to the proposal. Wheeler has also spoken with other prominent figures on the topic, including former FCC chair (and now National Cable & Telecommunications Association head) Michael Powell.

The records are incomplete, so it's tough to get a true picture of what's happening. More details are expected with a new batch of documents due November 26th, while others remain sealed to protect privacy, the "deliberative" process and "trade secrets." There's also no certainty that these conversations are having a negative effect -- Wheeler is expecting internet provider lawsuits no matter what, so it's clear that the FCC still disagrees with the corporate crowd on many points. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is worried that any direct access is too much. Even if there's no undue influence, this inside track lets the industry make arguments about net neutrality behind closed doors, where the public can't have a say.

[Image Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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