July 23, 2021

‘Net Neutrality’ created a bonanza of advocacy work for law firms

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Net Neutrality Protest-Article-201411141530By Jenna Greene, From The National Law Journal

As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to vote at the end of the month on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to reclassify broadband as a utility, law firms can count themselves among the winners.

The lengthy proceedings have created a bonanza of advocacy work. According to FCC filings by law firms, telecom boutique Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis has been the most active in lobbying the FCC on the issue, meeting at least 14 times in the past year with agency officials, including the chairman. Latham & Watkins and Steptoe & Johnson LLP are close behind. Both firms met at least 13 times with FCC officials, according to filings made by the firms. (The numbers do not include filings that may have made independently by clients.)

Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis name partner Scott Blake Harris led his firm’s representation of cloud services provider Akamai Technologies Inc., with 10 meetings. He declined to comment.

In presentations to the FCC, Akamai asked the agency to recognize that as a content delivery network, it does not offer services that would merit heavier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act. Harris partner John Nakahata and associate Paul Caritj along with client Rivada Networks LLC had four FCC meetings with officials including the legal advisers to the chairman and commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.

As FCC thinking on net neutrality evolved from favoring lighter regulation under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to the current position, reclassifying broadband under Title II, the ex parte meetings show some companies adjusting their strategies accordingly.

For example, when Steptoe partner Pantelis Michalopoulos and client, Leigh Freund, the chief counsel for global public policy for AOL Inc., met with FCC special counsel Gigi Sohn on July 17, they urged the FCC to consider Title II “as a last resort.”

After President Barack Obama in November called for Title II reclassification, they met with Sohn again on Nov. 21. At this meeting, AOL said the FCC should adopt a “Title II-plus approach” and “rely on all jurisdictional sources available to the commission.”

Michalopoulos and executives from Yahoo Inc. also met with officials, including Sohn and Rosenworcel, and again called Title II “a last resort if rules under Section 706 proved not viable.”

Steptoe partner Markham Erickson, who also serves as general counsel to the Internet Association, had a series of meetings with agency officials, including commissioners Clyburn and Mike O’Rielly. Erickson, who also represents Netflix Inc., met with more than a dozen FCC officials, including O’Rielly and general counsel Jonathan Sallet along with executives from the company.

Latham & Watkins partner Matthew Brill and client Comcast Corp. also met with Sallet and others. In January, Brill and Comcast executives “reiterated Comcast’s strong support” for proceeding under Section 706, and “continued opposition” to reclassifying broadband under Title II.

In addition, Brill, associate Matthew Murchison and leaders of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association met with FCC officials at least 11 times. On Jan. 12, they made a last-ditch appeal, arguing that proceeding under Title II would be “risky and destabilizing” and “would stand a significant chance of being reversed on appeal.”

IMAGE: Scott Blake Harris. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ

For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202717115223/Net-Neutrality-Created-a-Bonanza-of-Advocacy-Work-For-Law-Firms#ixzz3R1MEnNsE


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