Updated: FCC rejects senators’ call to delay net neutrality vote

Update: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s spokeswoman, Tina Pelkey, said Monday afternoon that the vote will proceed as scheduled. When asked whether Pai had any comment on the possibility that public comments were fake or submitted by bots, she referred us to the chairman’s previous statements on the issue, which read in part, “the Chairman’s plan is based on the facts and the law rather than the quantity of comments.” (End new)

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)


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    Ajit Pai is just another greedy corporate stooge who does not even consider that he is about to go down in history as the most hated person on the planet Earth. Even Kim Jong-Un has a large lead in the popularity ratings against him. Where does Trump get his cadre of crackpots, stooges, and incompetents anyway?…

    • Kefauver

      It took a lot of barrel-scraping to find this collection of useful idiots and stooges.

      Pai was bound and determined to kill neutraility and nothing was going to change his mind.. Considering the amount of response most FCC initiatives gather, the millions of comments received so far on this issue should tell any thinking person that there is a strong opposite point of view that ought to be heard out (at the very least). But not Pai. He’s got water to carry for broadband carriers and the big media companies.

    • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

      They’re “suggested” to him by the Mercer Family & the Koch Brothers.

  • Frank N

    Why did the FCC even bother to ask? Oh, wait, they were required by law to ask. But I guess not required to listen. Present net neutrality regulation resulted from a long process of deliberation and negotiation. It’s symptomatic that it can all be tossed away at the whim of a president.