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Internet Companies Take Aim at Wireless Net Neutrality as Debate Rages On

An Internet industry trade group is pushing the feds to cover wireless networks with new net neutrality rules.


Google, Facebook and other large Internet companies are ramping up a lobbying campaign to ensure federal regulators cover wireless networks in its new net neutrality rules.

The Internet Association, a trade group made up of 28 Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Netflix and Twitter, released a survey Tuesday showing that a vast majority of the American people would support net neutrality rules applying to their wireless phones. The group’s lawyers also met with FCC officials last week to lobby on the same point.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they don’t think wireless providers should be able to “block access or websites or apps,” which is something that carriers could do unless the FCC extends new net neutrality rules to cover them.

“There is only one Internet and the FCC’s open Internet rules should recognize that,” said Michael Beckerman, the Internet Association’s president, in a statement.

In 2010, federal officials opted against covering wireless networks under its net neutrality rules — which were designed to prevent Internet providers from blocking or deliberately slowing sites or apps. The agency agreed with the wireless carriers, which argued their Internet services are different from what consumers get at home because their networks are more space constrained.

The wireless industry is still pushing that same argument, but it’s not clear if regulators will be willing to give them another pass. The FCC could end up including wireless carriers under the rules but also give them some leeway in managing their networks to ensure all subscribers get decent service.

The loud push by Internet companies to make sure the wireless industry has to abide by net neutrality is notable because many of those same companies (including Google) had been far quieter in the ongoing debate about whether the FCC should re-regulate Internet lines.

Interestingly, the Internet companies’ survey provided new evidence that many Americans — even those who take online surveys — don’t really know what the phrase “net neutrality” means. Almost half of the respondents in this poll, which surveyed 550 Americans via SurveyMonkey, said they were “not at all familiar” with the concept, even though they were able to answer more general questions about whether or not they supported allowing wireless carriers to block sites and apps.

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