Major Tech Lobbying Group Supporting Legal Push to Restore Net Neutrality

The FCC, led by chairman Ajit Pai, voted to repeal net neutrality on December 14.  

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The Internet Association, a D.C.-based tech lobbying group representing industry titans like Google, Amazon, and Twitter, will be filing legal arguments as an intervening party in support of the legal push to restore net neutrality, according to a report from Recode’s Tony Romm.

While the association won’t file a lawsuit itself, it will offer critical assistance to entities who are planning to bringing suits against the FCC, such as activist groups, web companies, and state attorneys general.

The FCC voted on December 14 to overturn Obama-era net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers from controlling the loading speeds for certain websites. Big companies like Netflix and Google voiced their opposition to the vote primarily through press releases and Twitter posts.

However, as The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker notes, tech giants were actually fairly quiet relative to their more outspoken behavior in previous flare-ups of the net neutrality debate. These companies have such large user bases that they can use as leverage against ISPs, so net neutrality is largely a nonissue for them. Pinsker speculates that tech executives simply realize the public relations value of supporting neutrality principles, and that their employees are genuinely concerned about it.

In fact, most of these companies seemed to rely quite a bit on the Internet Association to act on their behalf during the debate last year. Facebook and Google aren’t even allowed to sue the FCC themselves, Romm reported earlier this week, because they didn’t file comments under their own names during the FCC’s initial debate. Since they missed the boat, they can’t petition a federal judge. But now that the Internet Association is acting as an intervening party, the tech companies it represents will have the right to appeal if the lawsuits don’t go their way.

The Internet Association is a formidable player for the tech industry in Washington, representing more than 40 major tech companies on a wide range of policy debates. The group’s latest filing in the Senate’s disclosure database reveals that it spent $300,000 in the third quarter to lobby congress on issues ranging from autonomous vehicles to political advertisements to copyright reform. The Internet Association reported a total of $900,000 in lobbying expenses during the first three quarters of 2017. (Fourth quarter filings have not yet been released.)

Disclosure filings further show that the association was also focused on “issues related to net neutrality, broadband deployment and the Telecommunications Act of 1996” for those three quarters. One of the lobbyists representing the association was formerly a policy advisor for Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who has been called a “champion” of net neutrality and is cosponsoring Congressional Review Act legislation to overrule the FCC’s decision.