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One Million Net Neutrality Comments Vs. $42 Million in ISP Lobbying

Internet service providers continue to outspend Internet companies in D.C.

Elena Yakusheva / Shutterstock

Newly released lobbying figures show that broadband providers are still far outpacing Internet companies on spending in D.C., as federal regulators consider how to write new rules for Internet lines.

Collectively, Internet service providers (and their trade associations) have spent $42.4 million so far this year lobbying lawmakers and regulators, according to federal disclosure forms. In the second quarter, Comcast* spent $4.45 million on lobbying, while the cable industry’s trade group, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, spent another $4 million.

Internet companies have spent significantly less on lobbying, some $25.9 million so far this year. About a third of that total was spent by Google, which increased its spending in the second quarter to $5.03 million, compared to $3.82 million in the first three months of the year.

isps q2 2014 lobbying

The discrepancy between the spending by the two industries — which is nothing new — continues to be a potential problem for net neutrality advocates who are hoping to convince federal regulators to adopt strong rules on Internet lines to prevent broadband providers from discriminating against some traffic.

Net neutrality advocates have passion on their side — last week the Federal Communications Commission announced it had received a total of 1.07 million comments about its controversial fast-lane net neutrality plan, which would allow Internet providers to charge content companies for prioritized service to subscribers. But the newly released lobbying figures show that broadband providers continue to far outspend companies that support stronger net neutrality rules.

That’s not a huge surprise, since broadband companies are determined to stop FCC officials from regulating Internet lines under Title II of the Communications Act, which was written with old phone networks in mind. Re-regulating Internet lines might be a more legally sound way of adopting net neutrality rules, but broadband providers don’t want their networks to be subject to other parts of the law, such as price regulations and requirements to offer wholesale access to competitors.

Even Internet companies that support net neutrality rules — notably Google, Facebook and Microsoft — didn’t come out in favor of re-regulating Internet lines under Title II in comments filed last week. Google and Facebook didn’t even file individual comments, relying instead on their trade association to express their views.

It’s not clear from the filing how much time and money was spent on lobbying about net neutrality and companies on both sides of the debate have plenty of other issues they’re using lobbyists to help them solve. Comcast is trying to convince regulators to let it acquire Time Warner Cable, just as AT&T wants the okay to purchase DirecTV. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook lobbyists are spending much of their time on privacy and national security issues surrounding the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program.

*Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit is an investor in Revere Digital, Re/code’s parent company.

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