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On Broadband Issues, Lobbying Expenditures Jumped at Year's End

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WASHINGTON, March 3, 2009 – The National Cable and Telecommunications Association spent $4.4 million lobbying Congress and executive branch agencies on the subject of “broadband” during the last quarter of 2008, more than twice as much as the U.S. Telecom Association spent lobbying during the same period.

Lobby disclosure reports for the months of October, November and December 2008 revealed that six entities spent a combined $8.2 million on seeking influence before both houses of Congress as well as executive branch agencies on broadband-related items, including lobbying contacts at the Federal Communications Commission, National Telecommunications Information Administration of the Commerce Department, and the Rural Utilities Service of the Agriculture Department.

The reports, which are available at the web site of the Senate Office of Public Records, don’t show how much an entity spent lobbying on individual bills or issues. But a search for “broadband” in the fourth quarter lobbying disclosure database, narrowed against the NTIA, revealed a rise in lobbying expenditures from $5.2 million in the third quarter to $8.2 million in the fourth quarter, or a $3 million jump.

That rise came even with one fewer entity lobbying on broadband-related bills and issues.

Lobbying disclosures report for the first quarter of 2009 are due on April 15.

NCTA led the broadband lobbying with expenditures of $4.4 million by internal lobbyists, or about $1 million more than they spent in the third quarter from June to August.

The U.S. Telecom Association, which represents AT&T, Verizon Communication, and hundreds of smaller phone companies, spent $2.19 million on lobbying expenditures – less than half the total of the cable industry.

The Senate Office of Public Records database, which allows searches by issue code, revealed that in lobbying contacts in which the NTIA was involved, NCTA weighed in on at least 15 bills with “broadband” in their titles By contrast, last quarter U.S. Telecom put its efforts in similar lobbying involving the NTIA to into just one: The Broadband Data Improvement Act, which was signed into law in October.

No funds were appropriated last year for broadband mapping. Last month’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act set aside $350 million for the NTIA to develop a comprehensive map of broadband availability within the country.

Among individual companies, the wireless carrier T-Mobile spent nearly $1.5 million on its lobbying efforts that included the NTIA. According to descriptions of lobbying activity within the database, T-Mobile was seeking to take possession of radio-frequency spectrum it won at auction but is still waiting for the government to vacate.

And T-Mobile’s team also had its eyes on the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds ultimately included in the stimulus package. The company’s fourth quarter lobbying report claims credit for drafting the provision “to expand broadband internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.”

Other players on the NTIA lobbying scene were the Utilities Telecom Council, at $20,000 to lobby for broadband over power lines, the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, at $10,000 to push telemedicine-based proposals and rural broadband development initiatives. Open Range Communications paid lobbyist Jon Christiansen $20,000 to lobby the Agriculture department for “Broadband rural development and regulatory approval for USDA loan.”

Broadband Breakfast Club

March Meeting: Broadband Competition: Do We Have It, and How Do We Get More of It?

BroadbandCensus.com presents the March meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at 8 a.m. Because of the Commerce Department/Agriculture Department/FCC Public Meeting on broadband stimulus from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the Broadband Breakfast Club will adjourn at 9:30 a.m.

  • NEW! – James Baller, President of Baller Herbst Law Group, will provide a brief summary of the progress of the U.S. Broadband Coalition
  • Art Brodsky, Communication Director, Public Knowledge
  • Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory, T-Mobile USA
  • Brent Olson, Assistant Vice President, Public Policy, AT&T
  • Emmett O’Keefe, Director, Federal Public Policy, Amazon.com
  • Scott Wallsten, Vice President for Research and Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

Webcasts of the Broadband Breakfast Club Produced in Partnership with:

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Previously an Assistant Editor at Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily, Andrew served as Reporter and Deputy Editor for BroadbandBreakfast.com until April 2010. Andrew helped produce and interview telecom and tech policy newsmakers for FastCompany.tv’s 2008 “Washington Week,” and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Communicators” series. His writing has also appeared in Linux Journal.

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