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12 People to Know in the Net Neutrality Debate

12 people to know in the net neutrality debate
Posted January 15, 2014 5:16pm EST

Julius Genachowski

After chairing the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Policy Working Group for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, Genachowski took the reins as FCC Chairman in 2009. During his tenure, the FCC passed the Open Internet Order, fulfilling one of Obama’s campaign promises President Barack Obama’s 2008 and establishing the FCC’s rules for net neutrality.

How Genachowski’s FCC went about doing this is at the heart of Tuesday’s ruling (and many of the criticisms now being lobbed at the now former FCC chairman). The technical argument goes like this: by claiming the power to regulate broadband Internet providers under its authority to regulate so-called “common carriers”. For a good breakdown on the nitty gritty technical details, check out this blog at theThe Washington Post.

Tom Wheeler

The current FCC Chairman will have his hands full deciding how to respond to the court’s net neutrality decision, which overturned rules passed by his predecessor. Wheeler reaffirmed his commitment to the principles of net neutrality in a blog post on the FCC’s website.

Wheeler wrote:

“The government, in the form of the FCC, is not going to take over the Internet. It is not going to dictate the architecture of the Internet. It is not going to do anything that gratuitously interferes with the organic evolution of the Internet in response to developments in technology, business models, and consumer behavior.But the FCC also is not going to abandon its responsibility to oversee that broadband networks operate in the public interest.”

Tim Wu

Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, is credited with coining the term “net neutrality” in a 2003 paper simply titled “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination”. He says the federal courts ruling puts the Internet in “uncharted territory” and, in a post for The New Yorker, faults previous FCC chairman Julius Genachowski for putting net neutrality on shaky legal ground.

AT&T and the big telcos

AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson (pictured above) said that his company won’t change how it provides broadband service, despite the court’s net neutrality decision. But the company has already initiated a “sponsored data” in which content from certain partners won’t be counted against a user’s monthly data cap. Verizon, part of the lawsuit leading to this week’s decision, and other companies havesaid they’ll play fair with consumers, but are going to be looking at all their options.

Barack Obama

The president made net neutrality a key campaign promise in 2008. His office reaffirmed that commitment in a statement to the press: “President Obama remains committed to an open internet, where consumers are free to choose the websites they want to visit and the online services they want to use, and where online innovators are allowed to compete on a level playing field based on the quality of their products.”

Susan Crawford

Law professor Susan Crawford served as co-leader of the FCC’s transition team before President Obama took office. She’s also a fierce critic of big telcos like Verizon and AT&T (here is a New Republic profile describing her as “High-speed Internet’s Elizabeth Warren) She told Re/code in a recent interview that the president needs to go to bat for net neutrality.

Reed Hastings

The Netflix CEO and his company (and others like it) face an uncertain future if telcos choose to charge cold hard cash for speedy access to its content. Hastings bashed Comcast last year for skirting net neutrality rules in its treatment of Netflix content.

John McCain

The Republican Senator from Arizona has opposed net neutrality, attempting to pass legislation in 2009 to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules. McCain praised the court’s decision Tuesday, saying in a prepared statement: “I have long opposed efforts that would allow the government to regulate the Internet, and today’s decision is a win for consumers and broadband innovation.”

Al Franken

The Democratic Senator from Minnesota, who sits on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, harshly condemned the court’s net neutrality ruling.

Via Franken: “Anyone who goes online to shop, promote their business, or simply to connect with the world should be worried about today’s opinion. I have been fighting to make sure the Internet is a level playing field for everyone—the website of a Minnesota small business should load as quickly as the website of a large corporation.”

Michael Beckerman

The president and CEO of the Internet Association (right), lobbying organization formed by Web giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, issued the following statement that leaves plenty of wiggle-room:

“The Internet creates new jobs, new technologies, and new ways of communicating around the globe. Its ‘innovation without permission’ ecosystem flows from a decentralized, open architecture that has few barriers to entry. Yet, the continued success of this amazing platform should not be taken for granted. The Internet Association supports enforceable rules that ensure an open Internet, free from government control or discriminatory, anticompetitive actions by gatekeepers. We look forward to studying the D.C. Circuit’s opinion and working with the FCC and policymakers on the Hill to protect Internet freedom, foster innovation and economic growth, and empower users.”

Marsha Blackburn

The Republican Congressman from Tennessee and House Commerce Committee Vice-Chairman is a fierce opponent of net neutrality. She praised the court for overturning what she describes as “socialistic regulations.”

Marc Andreessen

Responding to a tweet from Om Malik asking him to take a stand for net neutrality, the Netscape founder and prominent venture capitalist said that the issue is “is a more complex topic than single flash-cut YES or NO in my view.”

In another tweet, he wrote, “In ideal universe I want both net neutrality + fast growing investment in existing & new networks. Not obvious to me how to square circle.”

You can read more of their conversation in this GigaOM roundup.