Net neutrality: FCC commissioner issues call to arms
No matter where you stand on the contentious issue of net neutrality, there’s no denying the arresting frankness of an open letter published this week in the Los Angeles Times by FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the five-member commission chaired by Ajit Pai, wants your help.
Printed under the inflammatory headline “I’m on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality,” Rosenworcel’s editorial urges members of the voting public to “do something old fashioned” and raise a hue and cry in the hearing of her colleagues. FCC “leadership,” she says, hopes to vote to end net neutrality as soon as Dec. 14.
“Net neutrality” is more of a concept than a thing, but the basic idea is that the telecom and cable companies that provide internet access are required to treat all content equally. The opposite approach, decried by companies like Netflix, Facebook, and Google that provide web content but not (with the partial exception of Google) web infrastructure, would be to let access providers determine the speed and flow of content individually.
Pai has been the public face of the push to zotz net neutrality, arguing in favor of the perceived economic benefits of doing so. Rosenworcel minces few words in mounting her counterattack, even calling her own authority into question: “There is something not right about a few unelected FCC officials making such vast determinations about the future of the internet.”
Rosenworcel also addresses the brewing controversy over the validity of public comments favoring net neutrality that have been submitted to the FCC in recent weeks. There is concern that the web-based comment procedure may have been gamed using bots, while at the same time many attempting to comment legitimately may have been frozen out by a denial-of-service attack.
“In short,” she writes, “this is a mess. If the idea behind the plan is bad, the process for commenting on it has been even worse.” Rosenworcel believes that the FCC needs to hold public hearings in locations across the country to more accurately assess the will of the nation regarding net neutrality, but there wouldn’t seem to be much time for that between now and mid-December.
The Electronic Comment Filing System maintained by the FCC can be accessed by clicking here.