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Netroots Groups Flood White House, FCC With Calls to Reclassify Broadband

by Cecilia Kang

Members of grass-roots Internet groups MoveOn and Free Press have flooded the White House and Federal Communications Commission with calls urging the FCC to assert authority over Internet access providers so that it can carry out a net neutrality rule.

Members of grass-roots Internet groups MoveOn and Free Press have flooded the White House and Federal Communications Commission with calls urging the FCC to assert authority over Internet access providers so that it can carry out a net neutrality rule. (AFP/File/Mychele Daniau) The "netroots" groups say that without reclassifying broadband, the FCC can't carry out its planned rule to force carriers to treat applications equally on their networks. That policy proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was set back by a court decision last month that showed weakness in the agency's ability to regulate the companies that provide access to the Web such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

In a story by The Post on Monday, it appeared over the weekend that Genachowski was leaning toward staying with a regulatory framework that some legal analysts say would make it difficult for the FCC to carry out broadband policies, including its controversial net neutrality proposal. He had not made a final decision, sources said.

The grass-roots efforts come amid a stark quiet from companies that have been supportive of net neutrality rules. Companies on both sides of the debate have told me they are waiting for a final decision by the agency before commenting publicly.

A source at the FCC said the agency has been bombarded with calls. Free Press, a media reform public interest group, called for its 500,000 members to call and e-mail Genachowski to tell him to "protect the Internet" by reclassifying broadband. Some 200,000 of its supporters signed an online petition on the topic. Twitter was flooded with tweets to @fcc and @whitehouse calling for reclassification.

MoveOn said in an e-mail to its 5 million members to call the White House, urging the administration to tell the FCC to reclassify. The FCC is an independent agency and wouldn't be obligated to carry out instructions from the White House.

"There is a an urgent threat to the reality of a free and open Internet - and President Obama needs to hear from you right away," the group wrote to its members in an e-mail.

"This decision is flying under the radar right now - if we want to stop it, we need to generate a serious outcry," the group wrote.

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