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FCC flooded with comments by 'shadowy' anti-net neutrality group

18 December 2014

A shadowy organisation with ties to the Koch Brothers spearheaded an anti-net neutrality form letter writing campaign that weighed against net neutrality proponents, an analysis released today by the Sunlight Foundation revealed, reported.

The Koch brothers, Charles G and David H Koch, the sons of Fred C Koch, founder of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the US, of which they own 84 per cent, control of the family business, the fortune which they inherited from their father, and the Koch Family Foundations. They exert influence both directly and indirectly via various advocacy and lobbying organisations in which they have an interest.
The first round of comments the Federal Communications Commission weighed heavily in favour of net neutrality rules, but a second round of "reply comments" that ended 10 September went the other way, with 60 per cent opposing net neutrality, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The group calls itself nonpartisan, nonprofit and seeking to expand access to government records.

The Sunlight Foundation which used natural language processing techniques to analyse 1.6 million reply comments said, in marked contrast to the first round, anti-net neutrality commentators mobilised in force for this round, and comprised the majority of overall comments submitted, at 60 per cent.

"We attribute this shift almost entirely to the form-letter initiatives of a single organisation, American Commitment, who are single-handedly responsible for 56.5 per cent of the comments in this round," the Sunlight Foundation wrote.

The foundation acknowledged that the 1.6 million reply comments analysed fell short of the 2.5 million comments the FCC said it received.
Meanwhile, a one-year extension to a US moratorium on internet access taxes was buried in a $1.1 trillion government spending bill in the Senate on Saturday, PC World reported.
The Internet Tax Freedom Act, which also prohibited states from enacting internet-specific taxes like email or bandwidth taxes, passed the House of Representatives in July, which meant senate action over the weekend was the last step before heading to President Barack Obama for his signature.
This would be the fourth extension of the tax moratorium, first passed in 1998. The ban on states and local governments passing access and other taxes specific to the internet expired in November.
The ban does not apply to sales taxes and other taxes that had offline analogs and lawmakers have been pushing Congress to pass a law to allow states to collect sales tax from internet sellers from outside. The effort, however, failed in Congress in the past session. Internet sales tax supporters are expected to bring up the issue strongly in 2015.
Lawmakers in favour of sales tax had pushed to link the access tax moratorium with a sales tax in the spending bill, but failed.
In the event of the Congress having failed to extend the tax moratorium, several states would have moved quickly to levy taxes on internet access and other services, according to senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and long-time sponsor of the moratorium legislation.
''A fair and open internet is an engine of economic growth in America, a launching pad for entrepreneurs and history's most powerful tool of communication,'' Wyden said in a statement. ''By extending this bill, the Congress has, for the short term, ensured that this long-standing policy keeps internet access tax-free.''

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