As it faces criticism about its approach to net neutrality, Facebook has hired a former FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, to handle its policy on mobile and global access.
Martin ran the FCC from 2005 to 2009
Martin, a Republican, led the FCC from 2005 to 2009, and in 2008, was involved in a major net neutrality fight, as Comcast was caught throttling peer-to-peer internet traffic. Martin voted against other Republican FCC commissioners to censure Comcast on the practice, although the order was eventually thrown out, setting the stage for this year's historic net neutrality fight. As chairman, Martin also supported ideas like the unbundling of cable TV packages, but could be more conservative at times, arguing against strong Title II regulation and generally making "balancing deregulation and consumer protection" a cornerstone of his policy.
Facebook could use a friend like that right now. The company's Internet.org program has ostensibly been a way to spread free internet services across the world, but it's been controversial with net neutrality proponents. The program lets local telecom companies subsidize users' data usage, allowing people to access the programs for free, but in India last month, several startups pulled out of the program, citing the preferential treatment of some services as a violation of net neutrality.
Martin's experience is undoubtedly a way for Facebook to keep pushing ahead on programs like Internet.org, keeping a savvy operator around to deal with government regulators worldwide.
Update May 15th, 5:30PM ET: Text clarified to say that although telecom companies partnered with Internet.org subsidize users' data, they do not directly "pay" for the usage.