Update: The New top 10 net neutrality influencers

As promised, here is the new list of movers and shakers in the debate about network neutrality, an update from our previous rankings released earlier this summer. (In college football terms, the earlier was the preseason poll, while this one is near the end of the BCS process.) Since we are still waiting for names to be named following the Presidential election victory by Sen. Barack Obama, we’re sure this list will be updated again soon. But for now, here’s your new list, including a new numero uno!


The movers and shakers in the net neutrality debate, as of Nov. 16, 2008:

1. Rick Whitt, Google — With his new haircut, Rick no longer looks like Phil Mickelson and with recent wins like the white spaces decision, Google is playing public policy (at least in the telecom space) more like Padraig Harrington. But like Padraig, Whitt and Google will be looking over their shoulders as the season starts, as the Tiger of telecom looks to regain top status.

2. Jim Cicconi, AT&T — With 700 lawyers at his beck and call, and the financial resources of Ma Bell, it’s hard to see Jimmy C as anything but No. 1 when it comes to telecom lobbying. But the longtime friend of the GOP has his work cut out for him, with a President-elect who has net neutrality in his official platform.

3. Ben Scott, Free Press — Big Ben (well, not that big) jumps three spots, if for no other reason than the fact that things seem to be going lately just as he says they will. That’s either good guessing, or knowing (and helping advise) those who are pulling the strings. In November, Ben said there will be net neutrality legislation on the table soon in 2009. Anyone betting against him?

4. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. — Unchanged from original ranking. With all the focus on the Obama team, Rep. Markey hasn’t gotten much press yet but when the net neutrality discussions heat up in Congress we expect him to be strong as ever. Or stronger, with the larger Dem majority in both houses.

5. Joe Waz, Comcast — If Joe ever gets done cheering for the Phillies he might then be able to cheer his company to victory in its legal case seeking to appeal the FCC’s August decision. Either way, Comcast is already moving forward with smarter network management techniques, and has been reaching out to Google to find common ground. That’s moving the ball forward in a way that would make even Donovan McNabb jealous.

6. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — The President-elect is sort of a placeholder here, since the dirty work in getting net neutrality done will be done by those who he picks to serve. Still, kind of nice to have this guy on your side if passing net neutrality law is your goal.

7. Blair Levin, Stifel, Nicolaus — This humble corner of the universe still sees Blair as the favorite in the race to replace Kevin Martin atop the FCC. And even if it doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, he’ll be a strong voice inside team Obama, as he has been throughout the campaign.

8. (tie) Kevin Werbach and Susan Crawford, Obama FCC transition team — Another place-holder sort of pick, since whoever they help select will eventually wield real power. But as the Obama FCC forms, net neutrality proponents Werbach and Crawford will use their expertise and opinions to shape the team.

10. Larry Page, Google — The search giant co-founder put himself front and center as the cheerleader for white spaces, and got the idea over the goal line. Watching him express his passion for more openness and better Internet access in side-by-side interviews with Kevin Martin at a conference in November shows just how much the Googlers have grown up in policy matters. And as one observer said, “never underestimate the power of a pissed-off billionaire.”

Honorable Mention: Tim Wu, Columbia Law School; Kyle McSlarrow, NCTA; Eric Schmidt, Google; Chris Libertelli, eBay/Skype; Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge; Jessica Rosenworcel, Senate Commerce Committee; Jonathan Adelstein, FCC; Phil Weiser, University of Colorado; Richard Bennett, blogger/indepdent network engineer and self-confessed geek. UPDATE, 12/1: By popular demand (and my own inexplicable omission) I am adding the honorable Harold Feld to the honorable mention list… after all he does spend a lot of time inside the sausage factory of net neutrality.

Need to know more about net neutrality, or why such leading influencers think that 2009 will be a big year for possible passage of net neutrality legislation? Then order our Sidecut Report on Net Neutrality, which contains complete analysis of the FCC’s Comcast decision, as well as a net neutrality timeline and interviews with all the top players in the debate.

About Paul Kapustka

Paul Kapustka is a longtime journalist who has spent more than two decades covering the information technology business, Paul most recently has been focusing on mobility and how it has changed the computing and collaborative landscape. His newest project outside Mobile Enterprise 360 is a research and analysis operation called WiFi Journal. He is also editor in chief of Mobile Sports Report, which covers the intersection of mobile technology and sports business. Paul is also the founder of Sidecut Reports, a research firm that covered the emergence of 4G technology in the cellular marketplace.


  1. I’m SHOCKED that you left Harold Feld, Communications Policy Wonk Extraordinaire, off this list!

  2. Well, I’m not on the list either – moi, the Queen of Muniwireless! It is quite an outrage.

  3. Maybe we should make this list more like real-life lobbying and accept "contributions" … happy to change in that direction!

  4. I don't believe in pay for play. If I am no one of consequence now, I don't see how contributions will make a difference.