Why Net Neutrality Opponents Abhor Transparency

Why does the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) have a problem with the open Internet?

It’s hard to tell. IIA’s stated mission is to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to broadband.

It seems a worthy cause, but when it comes to Net Neutrality -- the principle that protects consumer choice and the free flow of information online -- IIA is a staunch opponent. And earlier this year, the group was more than willing to tell the Federal Communications Commission as much, warning the agency not to pass rules that would protect everyone’s Internet freedom.

What IIA didn’t reveal is that it receives bucket loads of cash from AT&T.

And IIA isn’t alone. The FCC docket for public comments on Net Neutrality is stuffed with filings from organizations that, on close inspection, have financial ties to the same powerful phone and cable lobby that wants to gut Net Neutrality.

Not surprisingly, their filings simply repeat industry talking points on the issue.

It’s because these conflicts of interest are rarely revealed to the FCC that Free Press has just filed in support of the agency’s proposal to require disclosure by “ex parte filers” whose financial interests in proceedings are not obvious.

But the push for transparency at the FCC shouldn’t be limited to the Net Neutrality proceeding. According to Free Press, the agency should mandate disclosure of financial contributions that could pose a conflict of interest for all groups commenting at the commission, in all proceedings.

“Without such disclosure, it may be greatly unclear whether advocacy is driven by the general public good, or by specific special interests,” Free Press states in its submission. “[I]n the worst case, this can undermine the Commission’s responsibility to shape communications policy for the benefit of the public.”

In the debate over the future of the Internet, it’s important to know who’s really doing the talking.

-- Free Press receives no funding from industry sources, political parties or the government.