Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Net neutrality polls cloud debate

THE LEDE: The net neutrality debate is sparking a new fight over polling on the contentious issue. Polling on net neutrality has been scant in recent years and the findings often differ widely.

{mosads}The complexity of the debate makes the wording of questions critical in surveys regarding net neutrality — the idea that broadband Internet providers should “treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of source,” as one appeals court defined it. And different groups are all jumping in to gauge public opinion — and swing the debate.

An Internet Freedom Business Alliance survey released this week found 44 percent support the broad concept of net neutrality, while 29 opposed it. Twenty-eight percent were unsure. The alliance supports strong regulations.

In an October University of Delaware pollmore than eight in 10 people said they are against allowing Internet providers to charge some websites more money for faster speeds, sometimes known as “fast lanes.” Banning fast lanes is a key component of net neutrality, as well as barring providers from slowing or blocking traffic to any website.

To enforce this, President Obama has called to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Advocates maintain this is the only way to ban “fast lanes.” But service providers have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use less restrictive authority.

In a poll released Thursday by the conservative Rasmussen Reports, only about one in four people said the Internet should be governed by the FCC similar to “radio or television,” when the question associated that with “regulation and censorship.” Another 61 percent said the “Internet should remain ‘open’ without regulation and censorship.”

Berin Szoka — president of the libertarian-leaning TechFreedom, which opposed Obama’s framework — described the Rasmussen question as “stupid,” and noted the regulations should have been compared to those governing traditional telephones. But he pointed to better questions in the poll finding a majority believes the best way to protect the Internet is through market competition, not government regulation.

“But if this question is dishonest, it’s small fries compared to the torrent of dishonesty used to support Title II,” he said, asserting the authority would not completely outlaw “fast lanes” as advocates say.

The many polls on net neutrality seem to find one area of agreement though: Most people say they have not been following the contentious debate closely.

The Rasmussen poll found 54 percent of people have not followed news about net neutrality very closely. Similarly, 54 percent reported hearing nothing at all about the issue, according to the University of Delaware poll.

Twenty-four percent of people surveyed by Rasmussen said they had followed news of it somewhat closely after Obama’s call Monday for the FCC to treat net neutrality as a utility. Another 18 percent said they have followed the news “very closely.”


Net Neutrality dance party on tap: A group of activists are holding a “protest dance party” outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. on Thursday night.  The group Fight for the Future is organizing the event to urge the commission to enact strong rules on net neutrality, similar to President Obama’s proposal earlier this week. The group said there will be protests in other cities around the country as well, including New York, Boston and Seattle.

FCC officials dish on John Oliver: The Verge on Thursday published about a dozen pages of emails from FCC officials discussing and laughing about comedian John Oliver’s June sketch about net neutrality. One FCC official said “we had a good laugh about it. The cable companies… not so much.” The 13-minute segment on Oliver’s show “Last Week Tonight” led to a huge increase in FCC comments about the issue and was followed by the FCC experiencing technical difficulties with its site. The news organization obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request.

FCC gets new chief economist: Indiana University professor David Waterman is taking over as the FCC’s new chief economist, the agency announced on Thursday. Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the telecommunications professor “will aid in our effort to beef up the role of economics in FCC decision-making.” Waterman is likely to focus on media-related issues at the FCC, the commission said.

Pelosi on Commerce Committee race: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she has not tried to poach supporters from Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) in the race for the ranking Democratic post on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Pelosi is backing Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). Pelosi said she has talked to about 20 members about it since the election, but only with those who asked or are still undecided.  

“I have not spoken to anybody who was for a very lovely man, Frank Pallone, who is terrific,” she said at a press conference Thursday. “He’s terrific, but we have a choice to make. But anybody who is for him I respect their decision, their friendship, their support of him. So I haven’t had any conversations of that kind. Only conversations when the subject has come up.”

FOIA bill pushed back: The Senate Judiciary Committee is putting off its consideration of an update to the Freedom of Information Act. The panel was originally scheduled to take up the bill on Thursday but it’s being pushed back to next Thursday, Nov. 20.

Panel to take up sports blackout bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee is also planning to take up the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (FANS) Act, which would require that sports leagues make all games available online if they are not on TV, next Wednesday morning. The bill goes above and beyond the FCC’s decision to eliminate of its sports blackout rules earlier this year.

Ben & Jerry’s backs Leahy: The ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s endorsed Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) new bill that would treat gay marriage equally under the law when it comes to inheritance rights for copyrighted material. The company, based in Leahy’s home state, has been a long supporter of gay rights, even filing an amicus brief in last year’s Supreme Court case on gay marriage.



At 8:45, Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Republican FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly will speak about Obama’s proposal for net neutrality at the National Press Club. The event is sponsored by The Free State Foundation.

Former National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander talks about cyber issues at a Bloomberg event beginning at 9 a.m.

At 1 p.m., the Technology Policy Institute is holding a panel on Internet-based video services.



Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is warning that federal regulators are trying to stifle economic growth and freedom of the Internet.  

Outgoing Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said he is keeping “all options on the table” when it comes to publicly releasing the Senate’s report on the CIA’s now-defunct interrogation program.

Legislation to block “patent trolls” will be one of the first issues the Senate takes up next year, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican said on Thursday.  

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) became the latest potential GOP presidential candidate to blast President Obama’s proposal for open Internet rules.

A privacy advocate thinks it has caught the government in a lie in its fight against “gag orders” preventing companies from discussing secret government requests for customer data.


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.comand Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

Tags Mark Udall Net neutrality Network neutrality Patrick Leahy Ted Cruz

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