House of Cards is not the only way Netflix flexed its presence on Capitol Hill in 2013. It's also using money.
The rental and streaming company rapidly built up its lobbying efforts in 2013. Just four years ago, the company spent $20,000 on lobbying. Last year, it dropped $1.2 million, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. It's still ranked well below many other computer and Internet companies on lobbying dollars, though.
Netflix is making money for some lawmakers, too. As the Center for Public Integrity points out, a handful of members on the Hill have money invested in the company. Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas owned between $16,002 and $65,000 in company stock, while Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey owned between $15,001 and $50,000.
The company's lobbying has focused on net neutrality, which would keep Internet providers from giving preferential treatment or fining sites based on how much bandwidth they use. Netflix has a lot to lose or gain in the policy debate. At peak times, Netflix accounts for roughly one-third of North America bandwidth.
A January federal-court ruling has left the status of net-neutrality rules in limbo. The White House, for its part, reaffirmed its support of net neutrality in response this week to a whitehouse.gov petition. And newly proposed legislation in Congress would temporarily keep the rules in place.
Newly proposed bills means a lobbying bonanza, right? Well, it's unclear which tech companies will actually throw their weight behind the legislation this time around. Google, which has become an Internet provider in its own right, isn't a lock to put its massive support behind the latest neutrality efforts. But Netflix, with all the cash it dropped in 2013, could position itself as a major power player.
This article appears in the February 20, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.