Transparency and documentation are either important -- or they aren't...
The FCC, which proudly and repeatedly proclaims they embrace "transparency," is taking considerable heat this week for meeting behind closed doors
with the largest carriers to hash out a deal on network neutrality. In an attempt to quiet some of this criticism, FCC Chief Of Staff Edward Lazarus took to the FCC blog
to insist that this all was perfectly normal -- and that the meetings (and a complete lack of documentation for anyone to follow a trail of decision making) are completely allowed under FCC rules:
Since the D.C. Circuits decision in the Comcast Internet-discrimination case more than two months ago, there has been a vibrant debate among stakeholders from all parts of the broadband community on the best path forward. Some stakeholders have shared their ideas with staff at the Commission, including ideas for legislative options. Senior Commission staff are making themselves available to meet with all interested parties on these issues. To the extent stakeholders discuss proposals with Commission staff regarding other approaches outside of the open proceedings at the Commission, the agencys ex parte disclosure requirements are not applicable.
Ah, but it seems like only yesterday that FCC boss Julius Genachowski insisted to all within earshot
(pdf) that "nothing is more critical to assuring the integrity of our proceedings than the way we document ex parte communications." Or not? Consumer groups like Free Press are not amused:
"It is deeply disturbing that the FCCs Chief of Staff is not only meeting exclusively with industry representatives on the future of the Internet, but when faced with criticism, he is also making weak excuses for the agency's behavior alongside vague promises to include others somewhere down the road. Paying lip service to transparency and being transparent are two different things.
Lazaruss claim that these meetings were not subject to ex parte rules is a red herring. Either the FCC is hosting these meetings to discuss FCC action on the future of the Internet, in which case they are subject to ex parte rules, or the FCC is secretly conspiring on a legislative strategy with only the largest telecom industry representatives and lobbyists at the table. Thats even more outrageous.
One anonymous source tells Daily Finance
that the agency is aware they "F*cked up." For all of the rhetoric coming out of the FCC, things appear to be business as usual as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon throttle up their lobbyist apparatus in order to shape network neutrality rules, FCC oversight, and Communications Act "reform."