Telecom Industry Spent Big Lobbying Against Net Neutrality

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In the fourth quarter of last year, the Internet and Television Association, or NCTA (formerly the National Cable and Telecommunications Association), spent about $4.3 million on lobbying expenses. That spending was 71% higher than the $2.5 million that NCTA spent in the third quarter.

The NCTA was not the only group or company to spend heavily on lobbying in the fourth quarter. According to a report at OpenSecrets.org, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR), Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) spent a combined total of $10.8 million on federal lobbying in the quarter.

It is unclear how much of that spending was directed toward opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 ruling on net neutrality. However, FCC Chair Ajit Pai announced a plan to reverse the net neutrality ruling in November, so the spending increase is highly likely to have coincided with the FCC’s action. The full commission approved the plan in December on a three-to-two vote party-line vote, with Republican appointees voting in favor of the change and Democratic appointees voting against.

While service providers, along with network and cable providers, lobbied to have the 2015 ruling rescinded, big technology companies lobbied to have the net neutrality ruling upheld. Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) spent $4.4 million on fourth-quarter lobbying, while Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) respectively spent $3.3 million and $3.1 million.

Other big tech lobbying spends came from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), which spent $1.6 million, and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), which spent $2.2 million, at least part of which was used to support net neutrality.

NCTA spent nearly $20 million on lobbying in 2013, more than $17 million in 2014, more than $14 million in 2015 and more than $13 million in 2016, in addition to the $8.5 million the group spent last year. Again, not all those dollars went to overturn the net neutrality rules.

Senate Democrats said last week that they have 50 votes lined up to restore the net neutrality rules under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) if they can round up one more vote. The CRA is the legal basis for 14 of President Trump’s reversals of Obama-era legislation. If the Senate succeeds in getting a simple majority to restore the 2015 rules, a similar CRA would have to pass the House and be signed by the president. Neither is likely to happen.

Visit the OpenSecrets.org website for more details and filings.