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Kerry Asks Copps, Clyburn To Support Network Neutrality Compromise

The chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee has called on Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn to back the compromise network neutrality order proposed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

According to a copy of the letter to the pair from John Kerry (D-Mass.) dated Thursday (Dec. 9), the senator is advising them to make the pragmatic call and accept "the good" over "the perfect," saying that is what he would do and pointing out that the commission's two Republicans have said they will oppose the chairman's proposal, meaning the Democrat's votes will be necessary for approval.

Copps and Clyburn were both supportive of the chairman's original proposal to reclassify broadband access as a Title II service. After pushback from industry and Congress on that effort,  the chairman is proposing to stick with a Title I defense for expanding and codifying the FCC's network openness guidelines, which he has scheduled for a vote Dec. 21. Neither Copps nor Clyburn gave the compromise proposal a ringing endorsement.

Kerry himself has been supportive of the Title II approach, but says that the chairman's proposal is "a moment we progressives have fought to achieve for years."

Kerry  says the proposal, as he understands it--it has not been made public--would "secure network neutrality" and "give it life in law." While he says he does not know how the final order will look after the other commissioners have weighed in, he suggests that even if it is not perfect, it is likely good enough.

"Some advocates for what we consider to be 'the perfect' are now urging you to fight and vote against 'the good,'" he said. "I would argue that is shortsighted." While Kerry says a ban on networks as gatekeepers might be preferable, empowering the FCC and others to police actions that could threaten network openness should be embraced.

Copps has continued to argue that Title II is the better way to go, and commission sources speaking on background have suggested he is not a lock to support the compromise. Some public interest groups who argue that compromise is skewed toward industry have been urging Copps and Clyburn to continue to push for Title II.

But Kerry says that if he were a commissioner, "I would support the chairman with some reservations. But I believe that given what I know of the order, I would ultimately vote in favor."