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Congress

House Republicans Continue To Question Collaboration On Net Neutrality Rules

June 3, 2011

House Republicans continue to question how the Federal Communications Commission developed and passed rules designed to prevent anticompetitive behavior online.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., criticized what she called "collusion" between the FCC and the advocacy group Free Press on Friday. On Thursday the conservative group Judicial Watch released emails between Free Press employees and Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and his staff.

"I am deeply disturbed by the revelations of collusion between the FCC and Free Press on the net-neutrality issue. The FCC has moved against the will of the people, the wisdom of Congress, and the order of the courts, to nationalize our most productive marketplace," Blackburn said in a statement sent to reporters. She has vocally opposed the so-called "net neutrality" rules.

In the emails, Free Press offers to help Copps write an opinion piece to place in a newspaper. Copps declined the offer but Free Press helped place a commentary that Copps and his staff eventually wrote.

In response, Free Press President Craig Aaron dismissed the emails as standard procedure for lobbyists on any issue.

"As you can see from even a cursory glance at these emails, there is nothing unusual or controversial in what Judicial Watch 'uncovered,'" Aaron said in an email statement. "This is what activists do: they contact policymakers and ask them to act in the best interests of the activists' constituents. In the case of Free Press, our constituents are the American people who want better media for a better democracy. The emails don't reflect anything more than that."

Free Press also strongly criticized the final rules for not being strong enough.

House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has questioned whether the White House helped write the controversial net neutrality rules, which were enacted in December.

But in a written response to Issa in February, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the law does not prohibit "communications between commissioners and commission and staff and members of the administration."

House Republicans have voted to overturn the rules, which continue to be a sticking point in many telecommunications debates.

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