Compliance Management

Senators call on FCC’s Pai to delay net neutrality vote

A letter from 28 Senators to the FCC chairman calls on him to delay its vote on repealing net neutrality over concerns that many of the public comments made on the issue may be fake.

The Senate group is led by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and the letter, addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asks that the FCC investigate several unusual issues centered on net neutrality docket's public comment record.

There are several issues at play with the comments that were sent in reply of the proposed move. The Hill reported that 22 million comments were submitted when the FCC opened the public comment period, but many of these may have been faked, something New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating. In addition, 50, 000 comments that were against the repeal may not have been included in the public record.

“Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC cannot conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public's view on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote on December, 14, 2017,” the letter stated.

Niether the FCC or Pai has yet issued a response to the letter.

Schneiderman's office said it had been stonewalled in his request for FCC records to help in his six-month long investigation, but that changed on Dec. 4 when the FCC's Inspector General's office reversed its original stance and agreed to cooperate. The move was hailed by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in the AG's press statement.

“Our Internet economy is the envy of the world because it is open to all. That is why I support net neutrality. But the FCC is on course to eliminate net neutrality guided by a record corrupted by hundreds of thousands of filings with stolen identities, close to half a million comments from Russian e-mail addresses, and an alleged distributed denial of service attack,” Rosenworcel said, adding, “This is unacceptable.”

She then backed the Senator's call for a delay so a more thorough investigation takes place.

There are a myriad of concerns over the repeal of net neutrality including that ISPs will charge a premium for higher internet access speeds, block users from roaming freely on the internet or that start up businesses will be hindered by an uneven playing field. The FCC chairman on December 5 countered these worries by issuing a lengthy myth vs fact fact sheet to “set the record straight” on his plan, which includes calling the aforementioned fears, and others, myths.

MYTH:  This is the end of the Internet as we know it.

FACT:  The Internet was free and open before the Obama Administration's 2015 heavy-handed Title II Internet regulations, and it will be free and open after they are repealed.

MYTH:  Startups will not be able to compete without Title II regulations.

FACT:  Entrepreneurs starting new businesses online thrived long before Title II regulations, and they will continue to flourish with more opportunities to innovate once those regulations are repealed.  Indeed, companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Twitter all started and experienced tremendous growth under the previous light-touch rules.

But Pai's thoughts on the topic have not placated Rosenworcel or fellow FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn who a few days earlier came out against repealing the net neutrality in a November 29 blog. In the posting she said start ups can be hindered by ISPs and need a fair environment to thrive and there are examples in the past where broadband providers have not acted properly.

“Broadband providers tell us to trust them – that they have no interest in engaging in anti-consumer or anti-competitive practices. But the record contains many real-world examples when broadband providers blocked lawful applications, such as when several wireless providers blocked Google Wallet in favor of these providers' own affiliated app. Net neutrality principles were established at the FCC as far back as 2004 to prevent exactly this type of bad behavior,” she wrote.

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