GOP commissioners gin up opposition to net neutrality

Two Republican FCC commissioners attended a meeting of Americans for Tax Reform on Monday afternoon, where they advocated against the agency chairman's net-neutrality proposal, according to industry sources.

Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, who have each vocally opposed the policy, appear to be encouraging activists and advocacy groups to work against the proposal.

It is not unusual for an FCC commissioner to reach out to activists. Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps has spoken to net-neutrality supporters such as Free Press to gin up their support on net-neutrality policies. 

The McDowell-Baker effort, however, was part of an off-the-record, weekly meeting of free-market activists. About 30 people attended.

The pair warned that the net-neutrality proposal could be more onerous than industry is expecting and might be significantly stronger than the Waxman legislative framework it was based on.

It seems possible that the GOP commissioners may be trying to steer free-market activists to oppose the policy in the absence of guidance from companies such as Verizon, AT&T and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

The companies have begrudgingly said they may be able to support the effort if it does not undergo some surprise strengthening treatment. In contrast, Republicans on Capitol Hill say the policy is harmful and must not be passed. 

Net neutrality will get a vote at the FCC's Dec. 21 meeting.