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Barton Accuses FCC of Distorting Net Neutrality Support

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) wrote FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Friday to explain a list of pro-net neutrality reg quotes from industry stakeholders the FCC was circulating.

"I write to bring to your attention the fact that certain FCC staff is circulating a document entitled ‘Strong and Wide Support for Chairman Genachowski's Open Internet Framework,' which offers a compilation of laudatory quotes about the newest proposal to regulate the Internet," Barton said.

As B&Creported, industry reaction was guardedly optimistic and included boilerplate caveats that signaled this was essentially the lesser of two unnecessaries, if not evils.

Barton pointed to the fact that the quotes only included the portions of industry quotes favorable to the chairman's proposal, not the caveats that preceded those quotes and made the point that they all preferred no FCC action.
For example, Barton cites the quote by National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow: "[W]e believe that it is a fair resolution of this set of issues and that it is proposed in a way that achieves our essential and shared objectives:  preserving the openness of the Internet and the incentives to invest and innovate for the benefit of consumers."

The FCC followed that part of the quote immediately by: "And I want to thank and applaud Chairman Genachowski, his Chief of Staff, Eddie Lazarus, and their staff for listening, for their hard work on incredibly complex business and technology issues, and for their leadership in seeking a fair resolution of a difficult and controversial set of policy goals."

But what was left out was part of what came between those two partial quotes, which was: "Should the order change in any material way from our understanding, we reserve our rights to vigorously challenge any such rule. Accordingly, NCTA will await the final resolution of the order at the next FCC meeting before making a final determination of our views or on any actions we might take subsequent to that meeting."

Barton cited several other partial quotes (a copy of the FCC "quote" e-mail confirms the absence of caveats), pointing out that they were billed as quotes of "strong and wide" support.

"I look forward to gaining a fuller understanding of what has happened and why," he said. "I hope you can take a moment to deal with the underlying issue, then update me on the outcome," he said, adopting a tone reminiscent of the civility with which Senators level their criticisms of each other on the floor. "Would that be possible by Dec. 8. 2010," he asked.

FCC spokesperson Jen Howard declined comment on the partial quotes, which one House Republican source likened to those brief newspaper movie reviews with elipses in place of the reviewers' real reaction. The FCC did not use elipses however, which signals to the reader that some portion of the quote has been left out.

The list was issued after reporters at a press conference asked questions about who in industry supported the deal.

Virtually all the industry reaction to the propsed vote on a network neutrality compromise included caveats because their preference had been for no regs. But when faced with an alternative of the FCC reclassifying broadband under some Title II common carrier regs, their compromise was to accept codifying practices they say they are generally following anyway.