The Hill Lets Republicans Suggest Public Didn't Have A Voice On Net Neutrality

The Hill legitimized Republican claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) needs to delay its vote on net neutrality to give the public time to review the idea, ignoring the fact that the agency received nearly 4 million comments -- which overwhelmingly favored net neutrality -- during an open-comment period in 2014.

Republicans Call For Delay Of Net Neutrality Vote, Demanding Time For Public Review

WSJ: Republicans Say Vote Should Be Delayed To “Make Proposal Public.” Two Republicans on the FCC and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) are calling on the agency to delay the vote on proposed net neutrality protections, scheduled for February 26. As The Wall Street Journal reported:

Republicans are increasing the pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to delay a Thursday vote on high-profile rules governing the treatment of Internet traffic, saying the public needs time to see and review the plan.

Two Republicans on the five-member FCC urged the agency to delay the vote, calling on Chairman Tom Wheeler to make his proposal public and subject to a 30-day review period before the proposal is completed. On Capitol Hill, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) urged Mr. Wheeler to appear at a hearing on Capitol Hill before the vote, and to make the proposal public before the FCC decides whether to complete it. [The Wall Street Journal, 2/23/15]

The Hill Legitimizes GOP Spin That Public Has Been Shut Out Of Net Neutrality Debate

The Hill: Critics Like Chaffetz Accuse The FCC Of “Rushing Through Tough Web Rules” While Failing To Be “Transparent.” The Hill reported on Chaffetz's call to delay the net neutrality vote and his claim that the FCC “has failed to establish the appearance this rulemaking is independent, fair and transparent.” The Hill continued:

Chaffetz urged regulators to “immediately” release to the public the text of the net neutrality rules set to come up on at Thursday's vote. Currently, the rules aren't scheduled to be released until after the commission votes. Chaffetz compared the recent process to the FCC's consideration of media ownership rules during the Bush administration, which occurred “only after conducting many public hearings, publishing the proposed changes, offering a public comment period and defending the changes in congressional testimony.”

An FCC spokesperson said that Wheeler has agreed to testify before the committee but asked to appear at a later date, given the short amount of time before the committee's hearing on Wednesday. That's unlikely to satisfy critics, however, who accuse the agency of rushing through tough Web rules after being bullied into the position by President Obama. [The Hill, 2/23/15]

But The FCC Already Received Nearly 4 Million Comments On Net Neutrality

NY Times: There Were 3.7 Million Comments On Net Neutrality, And Less Than 1 Percent Opposed The Protections. As The New York Times reported, the FCC received a record number of comments on net neutrality during the open-comment period in 2014:

More than 3.7 million comments poured into the Federal Communications Commission over the four months that it was seeking public input on its proposal for “Promoting and Protecting the Open Internet,” also known as net neutrality.

That demolished the previous record of 1.4 million comments -- mostly complaints -- that were filed after Janet Jackson's “wardrobe malfunction” during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl in 2004.


Over all, the comments studied were overwhelmingly one-sided. Less than 1 percent were clearly opposed to net neutrality. And about 5 percent had anti-regulation messages, although those included seemingly contradictory camps, one calling for consumer freedom and another advocating freedom for Internet service providers. [The New York Times, 9/18/14]

Notably, Broadband Industry Is Spending Big To Sway Congress Against Net Neutrality

Politico: Major Telecom Carriers “Donate Extensively To Congressional Campaigns.” As Politico reported, major internet service providers have donated “a combined $44.2 million to lobby Washington” in the last year:

Major Internet service providers AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are among the biggest opponents of Wheeler's plan, and they have been fighting it intensely. They spent a combined $44.2 million to lobby Washington on a host of issues last year, with net neutrality among their top agenda items, according to company disclosures. Executives like AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam have personally met with Wheeler to press their views.


Congress has emerged as another battleground on net neutrality, providing a new front in the lobbying war.

House and Senate Republicans recently launched investigations into White House interference with the FCC's decision making, and GOP lawmakers are drafting legislation that would replace Wheeler's order with weaker net neutrality rules. Republican leaders, meantime, want to update the country's guiding telecommunications laws -- a process that could redefine the scope of the FCC's regulatory power.

The congressional efforts create new opportunities to shape the debate, particularly for the major telecom carriers, which donate extensively to congressional campaigns -- and write regular checks to lawmakers who serve on key committees overseeing the industry. On the tech side, companies like Etsy, Tumblr and Lyft have mobilized, launching the Internet Freedom Business Alliance, which is focused on winning new net neutrality converts among skeptical conservatives. [Politico, 2/23/15]

MapLight: GOP Officials Who Oppose Net Neutrality Received Significant Donations From Internet Service Providers. According to MapLight, Republican Reps. Fred Upton (MI) and Greg Walden (OR) -- who drafted a bill that would have limited the FCC's authority to ensure net neutrality -- received a combined $156,300 from AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon in campaign contributions in 2014. [, 2/17/15]