Democrats put heat on FCC commissioner on net-neutrality vote

The Democrats have a message for FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: Don't screw things up on net neutrality.

Democrats allied with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski are working to put public pressure on Copps — also a Democrat — as the net-neutrality vote draws near.

Genachowski needs Copps to vote for his plan during a commission meeting on Tuesday if the rules are to pass.

As a result, Democrats who support the plan are pushing this message in the media: If Copps doesn't vote for Genachowski's plan, the consequences will reverberate all the way up to the White House. They are arguing the damage could even hurt President Obama.

A prominent Democrat close to the White House said it this way on Friday: "If Copps votes no on Tuesday, he'd be handing the president a huge loss at a time when the Democrats should have a big win."

"Voting no…would be snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory and would be giving the Republicans a huge win," the source said.

President Obama made a campaign promise to support net neutrality, and this vote could be the last opportunity to pass the policy.

Copps, however, sees the proposal as too watery and has pledged to negotiate with the FCC chairman in order to strengthen it.

As the vote approaches, the issue has drawn commentary from Democrats all the way up to the White House. White House spokesman Matt Vogel weighed in this week.

“President Obama believes that Chairman Genachowski’s proposal on open Internet advances this important policy priority and constitutes an important step in preventing abuses and continuing to advance the Internet as an engine of productivity growth and innovation," he said.

Ardent net-neutrality supporters who want tougher rules are sending their own message: they say Copps may vote "no" unless the plan is strengthened.

Despite the spin wars over Copps' vote, analysts expect he will fall in line on Tuesday.

"The two Democratic Commissioners can block approval of the net-neutrality rules, but we believe it’s in the majority’s interests to coalesce around a decision," analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said in a note this week.

"So while we expect some tough bargaining that goes down to the wire next Tuesday, our sense is an order likely will be approved, with some modifications, but not radical changes, to the draft, given the tightrope the FCC leadership appears to be walking," they said.

Even Copps has seemed to express that he might not be able to extract all of his demands from the chairman's office.

“We are hoping and working for needed improvements,” Copps told Bloomberg. “I cannot say we’ll get there.”