Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has uncovered documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that indicate officials at the FCC colluded with the leftist Free Press organization to publicly push a new plan to regulate the Internet under the FCC’s so-called “net neutrality” program. Judicial Watch obtained the documents pursuant to a December 27, 2010, Freedom of Information Act request.
In December 2010, the FCC voted 3-2 to advance its “net neutrality program.” This decision seems to fly in the face of an April, 2010 federal appeals court ruling that the FCC had exceeded its authority in seeking to regulate the Internet and enforce “net neutrality” rules.
The supporters of “net neutrality,” including Free Press, argue that high-speed Internet access is a “civil right,” and are recommending new government regulations to provide taxpayer-funded broadband Internet access to all populations, especially those deemed “underserved.” Opponents of “net neutrality” argue the program is designed to impose greater government control over the Internet and will result in less access, not more. Moreover, opponents of “net neutrality,” also dispute the claim that Internet access is a basic civil right protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Judicial Watch uncovered internal correspondence showing unusual coordination by some officials at the FCC and Free Press in pushing the “net neutrality” agenda in the run up to the controversial FCC vote in December:
- On November 2, 2010, Free Press Associate Outreach Director Misty Perez Truedson sent an email to John Giusti, Chief of Staff to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps asking if Copps would write an op-ed for the Albuquerque Journal in advance of a November 16 hearing on Internet access: “Would Commissioner Copps be interested in drafting an Op-ed in advance of the hearing? It’s a great way to get the word out and to spark conversations in advance of the event,” Truedson wrote. “We’re working on the op ed,” Giusti wrote back on November 9.
- The documents also include a series of emails sent to set up meetings between Copps and former Free Press President John Silver. “We are starting to get a good sense of how we’d like to proceed during the next three tricky months on NN [net neutrality]…” Silver wrote in the same October 8, 2010, email: “I think it may make sense for us to get together next week when I’m in town.” The documents also include a written summary of a phone call between Silver and Copps on November 28, 2010, just prior to the FCC vote in December: “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 noted.
- One set of documents includes correspondence between FCC Special Counsel David Tannenbaum and Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott establishing lists of speakers for FCC “internet workshops.” Among the speakers proposed by Scott: “Joe Respars (ran online activism for the Obama campaign – he’s at Blue State Digital);” “Alex Nogales – National Hispanic Media Coalition;” “Jay Stanley – ACLU;” and “Clothilde de Coz [redacted] Reporters without Borders.”
- When Tannenbaum asked Scott about inviting a speaker from Color of Change in a November 17, 2010 email, Scott writes….