As the FCC prepares to vote to repeal net neutrality rules Dec. 14, opponents are trying their hardest to fight till the end.
The Federal Communications Commission is set to dismantle regulations, put in place under President Obama, that are meant to ensure that all online content is treated equally. The hard-fought rules were approved in 2015 after years of wrangling and lawsuits.
Now more than a couple dozen senators are asking FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to delay the vote in the wake of questions about the 21 million-plus comments about net neutrality submitted to the agency during the public comment period. There are multiple reports that the comments include fake ones, perhaps made by bots.
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The senators are all Democrats and led by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New York.
“Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC cannot conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public’s views on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote,” Hassan and 27 other senators — including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and others, wrote in a letter dated Dec. 4.
Pai’s office has not returned SiliconBeat’s repeated requests for comment Monday.
But when asked recently about New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into the public’s comments to the FCC about net neutrality, a spokesman for Pai told SiliconBeat pushed back.
“This so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed Internet regulations to gain publicity for himself,” he said in an email Nov. 22.
The FCC, composed of three Republicans and two Democrats, is widely expected to kill net neutrality in favor of what Pai and the Republicans call “light-touch regulation.” The Democratic commissioners are against Pai’s plan to roll back net neutrality rules.
“While I fundamentally disagree with the merits of the FCC’s proposal, what is equally concerning is the lack of integrity to the FCC’s process that has led to this point,” Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the Democratic commissioners, said in a statement after appearing at a press conference with Schneiderman on Monday. “The FCC has held zero public hearings. The FCC has knowingly maintained a system that has already been corrupted and is susceptible to abuse.”
The other Democratic FCC commissioner, Mignon Clyburn, is calling attention to consumer complaints against ISPs over net neutrality.
“50,000 #NetNeutrality consumer complaints vs. the @FCC majority’s draft order that says no conduct rules are necessary,” Clyburn tweeted Monday. “Anyone else see the irony?”
Meanwhile, organizers say they expect more than 600 protests at all 50 states at Verizon stores and at lawmakers’ offices in Washington this Thursday, a week before the vote. One campaign says it has generated more than 750,000 phone calls to legislators.
When SiliconBeat asked Rep. Anna Eshoo, who represents part of Silicon Valley, whether she has received a lot of feedback on this issue from her constituents, she replied, “oh my goodness, yes.” Eshoo has worked for years on net neutrality.
She warned in a phone interview Thursday that the FCC’s draft order “completely discards the fundamental open internet of the last 20 years,” and that it is “going to a whole new place.”
Pai’s plan “removes bright-line rules based on bipartisan principles, embraced by Republican and Democratic FCC chairmen over the last two decades,” Eshoo said.
Photo: Then-FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai speaks during an open hearing and vote on net neutrality in Washington on Feb. 26, 2015. Now he is FCC chairman and wants to roll back the net neutrality rules that were adopted two years ago. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Tags: Ajit Pai, fcc, net neutrality