On Thursday, after he announces he is running for president, Joe Biden will headline a fundraiser in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosted by David Cohen, Comcast’s senior executive vice president who leads the company’s lobbying efforts in Washington D.C.
According to reports, Cohen’s email invite for the event asks for attendees to contribute $2,800, the legal maximum, towards Biden’s presidential campaign.
Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, has been a leading voice in the telecommunication industry’s efforts to oppose net neutrality rules, spending millions on lobbying against laws at the federal and state levels that would prohibit internet service providers (ISPs) from giving priority treatment to certain types of traffic, such as content produced by the ISPs or their corporate partners.
The federal government is currently deadlocked on net neutrality. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently voted in favor or restoring net neutrality rules, but the Republicans who control the Senate, as well as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) led by former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, are staunchly opposed to enforcing net neutrality through laws or regulations.
The Democrats’ next chance to enact net neutrality won’t come until at least after the 2020 elections, when the balance of power in Congress and the White House may be reshuffled. If Biden were to be elected President, it’s not certain that Democrats and net neutrality backers would have support from the White House.
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In 2006, when he was a senator from Delaware serving on the Judiciary Committee, Biden said that he did not think net neutrality rules were needed. “[Biden] indicated that no preemptive laws were necessary because if violations do happen, such a public outcry will develop that ‘the chairman will be required to hold this meeting in this largest room in the Capitol, and there will be lines wandering all the way down to the White House,’” CNET reported.
In 2007, Biden declined to co-sponsor the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, a bipartisan bill that would have amended the Communication Act of 1934 to include net neutrality protections.
Comcast was a top contributor to Biden’s Senate campaigns, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Individuals affiliated with the company gave Biden $84,500 from 1989-2010.
In 2015, the FCC enacted net neutrality rules that prevented ISPs from blocking or throttling any internet traffic, as Comcast had done with BitTorrent traffic in 2008. The FCC’s order was designed to withstand the types of legal challenges that companies such as Comcast and Verizon had previously made. In 2018, it was overturned by the FCC under Pai’s leadership.