The FCC appears to have coordinated its public message regarding 'net neutrality' with Free Press, a left wing non-profit organization seeking to reform the media, according to e-mails released Thursday.
Supporters of 'net neutrality', like Free Press, think equal access to the internet is a "civil right" and that service providers should be prohibited from charging certain prices for certain speeds. When providers have this kind of control, they say, customers in weaker coverage areas get stuck with weaker service. Opponents of 'net neutrality' say that if service is regulated in this way then content will soon be regulated as well.
In April 2010, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC did not have any authority to regulate the internet in this way, however the government agency voted to move forward with its 'net neutrality' program in December, just a few months later.
On its website, the Federal Communications Commission lists among its goals: "promoting competition, innovation, and investment in broadband services and facilities," something impossible under 'net neutrality' rules.
Free Press, meanwhile, openly advocates for 'net neutrality' on its website, and describes internet service providers this way: "They want to become the internet's gatekeepers, deciding which sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all-based on who pays them the most." Furthermore, the group has released statements to the press in 2011 with titles like: "Congress Should Improve, Not Dismantle, Net Neutrality Rules," "Boehner's Attack on Net Neutrality Not Based in Reality" and "Free Press Action Fund: Vote to Eliminate Net Neutrality a 'Dangerous Overreach."
E-mails obtained by conservative nonprofit group Judicial Watch highlight the communications between the government and Free Press, which is funded in part by billionaire George Soros.
One message from Free Press to the FCC dated November 2, 2010 is a request for the FCC Commissioner's chief of staff to ask his boss to write an op-ed for the Albuquerque Journal ahead of a November 16 hearing about internet access. "It's a great way to get the word out and to spark conversations in advance of the event," Free Press Associate Outreach Director Misty Perez Truedson wrote to the FCC's John Giusti. Giusti complied, responding one week later, "We're working on the op ed."
Another document obtained by Judicial Watch via its Freedom of Information Act request includes the summary of a phone conversation between FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and former Free Press President John Silver. "Silver emphasized that a strong net neutrality rule is critical to preserving the internet as a vibrant forum for speech, commerce, innovation, and cultural expression," the summary from this November 28, 2010 conversation reads, in part. A few days later, the FCC voted to continue it's 'net neutrality' program, despite the federal appeals court ruling.
Along with these documents Judicial Watch released a statement explaining its concern with everything it found. "The American people should be deeply troubled by the fact that the Obama administration, on issue after issue, seems to be run by shadowy leftist organizations," said President Tom Fitton. "Our government is supposed to be 'of the people, by the people, and for the people', not 'of the Left, by the Left, and for the Left."
A call to the FCC's Office of Media Relations was not immediately returned on Friday.