Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix — along with their telecom industry foes —have not committed to sending their chief executives to testify before the U.S. Congress in September on the future of net neutrality.
Not a single one of those companies told the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is convening the hearing, that they would dispatch their leaders to Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks, even at a time when the Trump administration is preparing to kill the open internet rules currently on the government’s books.
The panel initially asked those four tech giants, as well as AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon, to indicate their plans for the hearing by July 31. For now, though, the committee told Recode on Monday it isn’t giving up and would extend its deadline, as it continues its quest to engage the country’s tech and telecom business leaders on net neutrality.
“The committee has been engaging in productive conversations with all parties and will extend the deadline for response in order to allow for those discussions to continue,” a spokesman said.
The tepid response to the House’s planned hearing, first reported by Recode earlier this month, stands in stark contrast with those companies’ own public commitments on net neutrality.
Companies like Facebook and Google recently called on Congress to put in place more lasting safeguards for the open internet, even embarking with a major online rally in defense of net neutrality earlier this month. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg previously had expressed a willingness to work with Congress on a net neutrality bill, too.
The likes of AT&T and Verizon, meanwhile, are no fans of the strong regulations currently on the government’s books — and they support efforts by the Federal Communications Commission to scrap the existing net neutrality rules. But even telecom giants have called for legislation to put an end to the debate that’s more than 15 years in the making.
Behind the scenes, though, both sides appear to fear a grilling in Congress — and not just on net neutrality.
Tech executives like Zuckerberg and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who have never before testified on Capitol Hill, don’t want to face unrelated questions on issues like privacy. Telecom leaders, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, similarly don’t want to field queries about their merger plans. And not a single company on either side of the net neutrality debate wants to be the only corporate behemoth with a major executive sitting before lawmakers.
Some of the invitees instead urged the House committee to allow them to send underlings, not chief executives, to testify on September 7, sources have told Recode. All eight companies either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
For now, House Republicans are forging ahead — and trying to jumpstart the conversation. They issued a plea to all eight tech and telecom companies this afternoon to discuss what a net neutrality bill might actually look like at a private August 7 meeting.
“We aren't asking anyone to produce the DC version of the dreaded August book report,” according to an email obtained by Recode from two sources. “All of the various issues on the table have been debated for years among all of us who work on communications and tech public policy. So all we are looking for at this stage is a list of asks.”
Earlier, House Republicans had warned tech and telecom companies’ top executives against trying to sit the session out.
A spokesman for the panel’s leader, GOP Rep. Greg Walden, said lawmakers expected CEOs to attend. Other senior panel Republicans, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, stressed to the nation’s tech titans the importance of sending their high-profile leaders to Washington in a few weeks.
“I think it would be appropriate, I think it is expected, for the tech companies to choose to show up — to have the discussion — and I don’t think it’s a discussion they want to be absent from,” she said in an interview with Recode last week.
* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.