Lobbying by the primary trade group of the telecommunications industry jumped 71 percent in the last three months of 2017, when the Federal Election Commission readied to vote on a controversial yet successful end to net neutrality.
The Internet and Television Association (NCTA) spent about $4.3 million in fourth quarter lobbying, up from $2.5 million in the previous quarter, according to disclosure reports. About $1.2 million of the NCTA’s spending last quarter was outsourced to outside lobbyists, many of whom included “net neutrality” on their fourth-quarter reports filed by Monday’s deadline.
The fourth quarter disclosures covered lobbying activity from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
NCTA lobbied on a myriad of bills unrelated to net neutrality in 2017, but the group has been particularly critical of the Obama-era protection endorsed by the FCC.
In February 2015, the FCC passed a rule prohibiting internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, slowing or speeding up web content or charging customers additional fees to access certain web services. NCTA filed their unhappiness with the U.S. Supreme Court and has lobbied to overturn it ever since.
Then in November, new FCC chair and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai announced a plan to overturn the 2015 ruling that had safeguarded net neutrality, a regulation opposed by broadband internet providers. The FCC approved Pai’s proposal in December.
Aside from NCTA, the four largest U.S. internet service providers – AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast and Verizon – spent a combined $10.8 million on federal lobbying in the final quarter of 2017.
Roughly a third of the spending ($4.3 million) came from Comcast, the largest U.S. broadband provider.
Charter Communications, whose CEO is chair of the board at NCTA, spent $2.6 million in the fourth quarter, up 40 percent from the $1.9 million the company spent in the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, some of the country’s largest technology companies and web content providers had opposed the FCC’s plan to reverse net neutrality, and their fourth quarter lobbying reflected a desire to persuade the FCC to abandon its proposal – albeit unsuccessfully.
Google ($4.4 million), Amazon ($3.3 million) and Facebook ($3.1 million) spent a combined $10.8 million on lobbying issues including net neutrality protection.
Tech giants Apple ($1.6 million) and Microsoft ($2.2 million) lobbied at least part of the time on net neutrality, as did Netflix ($200,000) and Twitter ($140,000).
The Internet Association, one of the most politically active trade groups lobbying on behalf of internet companies, spent $300,000 during the fourth quarter and $1.2 million overall last year as well.