Colorado U.S. Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter signed onto a letter to the Federal Communications Commission last week Thursday that was penned by New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks. The letter was signed by 70 other members of Congress and appears to have been crafted by Meeks to cater to Verizon Communications, the second-largest employer in his New York district and also the second-largest contributor to his campaign coffers. Verizon donated as much as $43,000 to Meeks, according to campaign-cash tracking website Open Secrets.
The letter was sent in advance of meetings the FCC plans to hold Thursday on national broadband policy.
Polis distanced himself from the letter, according to spokeswoman Lara Cottingham, once constituents and bloggers made it clear the letter advanced telecommunications industry interests against the interests of “network neutrality” supporters, who fear without regulation, the Internet will become a less free pay-to-play service that favors communications corporations.
“[Polis] would have never signed on to that letter had he believed it was anti-net neutrality,” Cottingham told The Colorado Independent.
“The letter (pdf) was pretty vague and when [Polis] read it, he agreed with the general push [it made] for increased competition and increased broadband access. The Congressman is not in the pocket of the telecom lobby. He has always been for open access. There was no flip flop. There was no change of heart. Which is why he decided to write his own letter and make his position crystal clear.”
On Monday, Polis drafted a letter (pdf) urging the FCC to take action to ensure that the Internet remains open and fair to all users even as it continues to develop. He also blogged his support for net neutrality at The Huffington Post, where he asked constituents to add their support by signing his letter.
Perlmutter spokeswoman Leslie Oliver said the congressman likewise fully supports net neutrality and that he does not believe the letter is in fact anti-net neutrality.
“It’s simply asking the FCC to use measured consideration in any rule making. It was not [Perlmutter’s] intention to oppose net neutrality. His concerns are to increase speed and affordability for all.”
Qwest Communications is a top 20 contributor to Perlmutter’s campaign committee. Qwest gave $4,500 to Perlmutter, according to Open Secrets.
A representative for Meeks’ office confirmed he was the sole author of the letter, but would not discuss net neutrality in any detail.
“The letter was meant to ask the FCC when they put out new rules to consider the implications and do it based on the facts. The Congressman would ask [the FCC] to consider what those rules will mean for broadband expansion and investment — capital investment that the providers will have to put into the tech sector. We can’t have a slowdown now in capital investment because that means jobs.”