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FCC Chair 'Calling CEOs' to Garner Support for Net Neutrality

Democrats' net neutrality proposal is entering its home stretch and members of the party have a clear message for Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Julius Genachowski -- don't screw this up. The Hill reports:

Democrats allied with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski are working to put public pressure on [FCC commissioner Michael] Copps 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 that 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.

So-called "net neutrality" has been a controversial campaign pledge the Obama administration has worked to implement.  But Copps' support for more stringent regulation and a potential 'no' vote threatens to derail Democrats' plans.

As the debate amongst the FCC commissioners will end in a vote Tuesday, Democrats on Capitol Hill are keeping a close eye on the process, warning that the slightest mix-up could spoil the proposal.  During a floor speech Saturday, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., -- an ardent supporter of net neutrality -- condemned FCC chair Genachowski for being too concerned with the interests of the industry.

During his statements, Franken said he is "concerned when I hear that the chairman of the FCC is calling the CEOs of companies they are supposed to be regulating, seeking their public endorsement of his net neutrality proposal."  Franken, like Copps, is urging Genachowski to make the proposal's regulations even more stringent before the agency votes on it Tuesday.

"I sincerely hope that the FCC will make significant improvements before then," he said.

He also said the FCC commissioners should "think long and hard before they vote to approve a proposal that could actually make things worse for all Americans."

The White House weighed in on the debate last week. Spokesman Matt Vogel suggested that President Obama believes Genachowski's proposal "constitutes an important step in preventing abuses and continuing to advance the internet as an engine of productivity growth and innovation."

But Republicans are working to block the Democrats' proposal, re-introducing an amendment that would ban the FCC from using government funding to adopt or implement any net neutrality regulations.  In addition, the two sitting Republican FCC members have questioned whether new neutrality regulations are even necessary.

"We are concerned that both factual and legal conclusions may have been drawn before the process has begun," they said, adding that the Commission should not adopt rules "in an effort to alleviate the political pressures of the day, if the facts do not clearly demonstrate that a problem needs to be remedied."

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