A Philly guy is now the FCC's net neutrality consumer advocate - Technical.ly Philly


Oct. 20, 2015 10:29 am

A Philly guy is now the FCC’s net neutrality consumer advocate

Meet Michael Janson, the FCC's new “Open Internet ombudsperson.”

FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C., February 2015.

(Photo by Mark Van Scyoc via Shutterstock)

Michael Janson once led a losing effort to unionize grad students at Penn. Now, more than a decade later, the Bucks County native is the Federal Communications Commission’s consumer advocate for net neutrality.

It’s an appointment that has the activists over at West Philly’s Media Mobilizing Project (MMP) glowing.

“We’re just stoked about it,” wrote MMP’s Hannah Sassaman in an email.

Michael Janson.

Michael Janson. (Photo via LinkedIn)

MMP has focused much of its organizing work around fighting for net neutrality and holding Comcast’s power in check.

The FCC announced last week that Janson, 40, an associate chief at the agency’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, would take over for Parul Desai, the FCC’s first “Open Internet ombudsperson.” Janson, like Desai was, will be responsible for advocating for people and companies who have net neutrality complaints. The creation of the role was just one part of the net neutrality measures the FCC introduced earlier this year.


“Mike played a really big role at an integral moment in the net neutrality fight,” Sassaman wrote.

It was Janson, Sassaman said, who helped bring FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to Philadelphia last fall to meet with black business leaders like Brigitte Daniel of Wilco Electronic Systems and Sara Lomax-Reese of WURD, as well as others like Tom Earle of Liberty Resources and Ron Blount, head of the taxi workers union, to talk about net neutrality. (You can read Sassaman’s letter to the FCC about that meeting here.)

Sassaman wrote: “Meetings like this played a big role in the Chairman’s strong support and endorsement of full net neutrality rules and protections — and the role Mike played shows that he’s ready to be a fair and powerful person hearing any net neutrality concerns, and helping everyday people access the FCC to defend their right to communicate.”

Janson, who grew up in Langhorne and Yardley, got his doctorate and law degree at Penn. He was at Penn the same time as MMP founder and board chair Todd Wolfson, who praised him as a “skilled communicator” in a statement. He lived in Center City and West Philly until he left for D.C. in 2009.

For more about Jansen’s organizing work at Penn, read this 2003 New York Times Magazine story. We especially like this initial description of him:

With a gracious, raised-right humility in his brown eyes, permanent-press khakis and a fashion-free haircut, Janson makes an unlikely radical: he looks like someone whose life will work out fine if he just keeps showing up. But for more than two years, Janson, a budding political scientist, has played David to the University of Pennsylvania’s Goliath.

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