Free Press – Busted, Knee-Deep in the FCC Kimchi

by Mike Wendy on July 31, 2010

Put this one in the “pot calls the kettle black” file.

For the past couple of weeks, reports have it that the FCC is negotiating with “stakeholders” for a way out of its broadband Tile II reclassification mess.  This is standard procedure here in Washington, especially for such controversial proposals that touch many different groups so differently.

A powerful regulator has some powerful leverage.  But, the FCC – with its congressionally-granted authority to regulate the Internet on dubious footing, and disapproval of its Net Neutrality / Title II plans growing with each day – seemingly wants to cut a deal (hopefully not the baby).

Some groups, such as the Free Press, have been whining about this process, though.  As they recently note in this press release  –  

Despite public outrage and repeated promises of transparency, the FCC continues to meet behind closed doors with the largest companies to negotiate a secret deal that would short-circuit public participation in policymaking that would shape the Internet for a generation. The great irony here is that the FCC’s ‘transparency’ policy is part of these negotiations…

You’d think from this holier-than-thou release that they’ve been locked out.  Think again – they’ve been part of the negotiations, too, as this Ars Technica article reveals:

But for “secret,” “closed,” “back room” meetings, these have been remarkably open affairs. Here’s the sordid history of these allegedly clandestine gatherings, summaries of which we found as plain as day on Lazarus’ blog…

…A small battalion of corporate biggies piled into the offices of Lazarus’ office to talk up “details relating to prospective legislation relating to open Internet principles.” The attendants included representatives from Verizon, Google, Skype, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, but it also included a rep from the Open Internet Coalition, which includes Free Press. (emphasis added)

If that doesn’t convince you, there’s this FCC blog , which spells out all of the parties actively engaged in the “secret meetings.”  Guess who attended (directly or through representatives) several of those “closed door” meetings? 

That’s right – Free Press.

Let me cut to the chase.  Free Press and their ilk are lobbyists, plain and simple.  “Yuck,” you say?  Not really.  They’re just part of the movable feast that goes along with any such complex and divisive issue.  There’s no shame in this.  The First Amendment protects this activity.  Hooray for that! 

But, here’s the rub.  When you go about crying about a “closed door” process – as if you’re above it – and then it’s shown that you’re knee-deep in the kimchi, well, that’s just poor form.  Or, put more bluntly – that’s hypocrisy.

This week’s pot-calling-the-kettle-black award goes to…and the envelope please.  Free Press (applause!!!). 

Good going, guys.  Welcome to the First Amendment (which protects even hypocrisy).

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