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Free Press Questions Justice Department’s Late Hit Against Net Neutrality

September 13, 2007
12:09 PM

CONTACT: Free Press 
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490, x22

Free Press Questions Justice Department’s Late Hit Against Net Neutrality
FOIA request seeks to shed light on motivations behind long-delayed DOJ filing at the FCC

WASHINGTON - September 13 - Public interest advocates are seeking to uncover whether industry lobbyists or White House politics unduly influenced a recent Justice Department filing against Net Neutrality — the longstanding principle that prevents phone and cable companies from discriminating against Web sites and services.

Free Press, the national, nonpartisan media reform group that coordinates the Coalition, today submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to uncover the underlying factors that led to the Justice Department’s Sept. 6 filing at the Federal Communications Commission — which came months after the FCC’s formal comment period had closed.

“We want to know what motivated the Department of Justice to oppose Net Neutrality this late in the process,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press and author of the request. “The filing lacks any evidence of serious investigation into this critical issue and fits into a pattern of politically motivated decisions coming out of the Justice Department. We want to know if the Bush administration’s lawyers reached out to any of the thousands of groups, businesses or individuals who support Net Neutrality — or if they only talked to industry lobbyists at AT&T and Verizon.”

Last week’s late filing at the FCC mirrors phone and cable industry arguments against Net Neutrality. In late 2006, the DOJ’s antitrust division rubber-stamped AT&T’s takeover of BellSouth — the largest telecommunications merger in history — without seeking any consumer protections. The FCC ultimately required AT&T to respect Net Neutrality for two years as a condition of approving the deal.

The most recent anti-Net Neutrality filing came during Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ last days at the helm of the Justice Department. It followed recent revelations that the government and AT&T had conspired in far-reaching efforts to spy on Americans without legal warrant — efforts for which the Bush administration is now seeking to give immunity from prosecution to AT&T and other phone companies.

“Actions taken against privacy and the open Internet by AT&T and the Bush administration are precisely why we need to make Net Neutrality the law,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press. “Lack of broadband competition has given giant companies like AT&T enormous power to advance their own interests — at a huge public expense.”

The Bush administration has fallen well short of its goal of universal access to the Internet by 2007, instead opting for policies that support the duopoly of cable and telephone companies and stifle free market competition.

“It’s time we had a national broadband policy that replaces duopoly control with the kind of healthy competition we need to achieve universal, affordable high-speed Internet access that benefits everyone — not just AT&T,” Scott said.

Read the Freedom of Information request



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