By Sara Jerome - 01/10/11 06:49 PM EST
Net-neutrality activists are concerned incoming White House Chief of Staff William Daley's history in the telecom industry could spur President Obama to abandon their main issue.
Daley was president of SBC Communications before it acquired AT&T and took the smaller company's name.
"With Daley at his side, how long will it be before Obama caves?" Tim Karr, Free Press campaign director, wrote in the Huffington Post on Saturday.
In contrast, net-neutrality opponents have offered upbeat remarks about Daley's selection, hinting that they see it as good news for their arguments.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has introduced a bill that would halt the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, said Daley is someone who might encourage President Obama to think twice before vetoing an anti-net-neutrality bill.
"Perhaps before the president raises the veto pen, Mr. Daley will be able to ask some pertinent questions like: 'Where has current law failed us?' 'When have the ISPs [internet service providers] ever actually blocked a legal website or punitively slowed someone’s access?' 'What will happen to investment if we nationalize the Internet?’ ” said Blackburn, the vice chairwoman of the House Trade subcommittee and a member of the House Communications subcommittee.
Blackburn is far from alone. The Chamber of Commerce, which has vocally opposed FCC regulations, also praised Obama's choice last week.
Obama made a campaign promise to support net-neutrality regulations and later praised the FCC for creating such rules, which aim to prevent phone and cable companies from interfering with Web traffic.
Though House Republican have promised to pass legislation halting the rules, analysts said last month that the bill is unlikely to become law. It would face a tough test to get through the Senate, and if it did, it would likely be vetoed by Obama.
Net-neutrality proponents, however, fear that Daley, a former telecom executive, could persuade the president against a veto.
More broadly, pro-business voices celebrated the choice.
Blackburn put it this way: "I am encouraged there is at least one person with the president’s ear who sees corporations as job creators, not sinister actors." She said that "of course it is gratifying" that "the president has brought someone into his inner circle who understands how hyper-regulation can stifle innovation."
TechNet, a technology trade group, also praised the choice.
"Bill Daley has a proven track record in working with companies to bring jobs, investment and innovation to the country," Rey Ramsey, president of TechNet, said, adding that Daley is "a great asset for the administration."
Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), the incoming Communications subcommittee vice chairman, said the GOP will try to repeal net neutrality no matter who is at the White House. The GOP will "continue its effort to block or repeal the FCC order on net neutrality regardless of" who is serving as White House chief of staff, Terry told The Hill.