To the hottest internet issue nowadays, the FCC has received a record response of 9 million public comments on reversing net neutrality regulations. The first public comment period was ended on Monday and a rebuttal period will last till further one month. And to that, one million more comments are already received.
Such an immense response was generated and boosted through the online protest named as “Day of Action” conducted previous week by tech companies and liberal privacy rights organizations in support of existing net neutrality regulations. Also, they oppose the ones who are in favor of overturning the rules arguing that the new rule will provide ISPs a greater chance to play favorites.
After this turnout, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the president’s stance on the net neutrality issue, in a press briefing. Spicer said that he didn’t know which seems an irresponsible answer to a topic getting extreme attentions.
However, he mentioned getting more information on Trump’s stand over the matter. Yet, the Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders provided the administration’s stance. Sanders said that it believed that it’s necessary for everyone to follow “rules of the road”, but also added, “With that said, the previous administration went about this the wrong way by imposing rules on ISPs through the FCC’s Title II rulemaking power. We support the FCC chair’s efforts to review and consider rolling back these rules, and believe that the best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty.”
Three months ago, the existing FCC chairman and Trump appointee Ajit Pai had said that he would initiate the process to revert rules implemented in 2015 which in his opinion are overly burdensome for the ISPs.
However, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) has filed an FOIA request in May. The agency has requested FCC to extend the comment deadline for its proposed 60 days due to 47,000 net neutrality complaints they have received since June 2015. According to Ars Technica report, the NHMC believes that those complaints are important for proper evaluation of the rollback proposal.
Yet, the FCC has rejected the proposal for the extension of comment period which was ended earlier this week and has said that the request from FOIA to release all the complaints is too troublesome. The department of justice guide reads, “ the fact that an FOIA request is very broad or “burdensome” in its magnitude does not, in and of itself, entitle an agency to deny that request on the basis that it does not “reasonably describe” the records sought. The key factor is the ability of an agency’s staff to reasonably ascertain exactly which records are being requested and then locate them.” However, they also quote the federal appeals decision which says that the broad requests could “impose an unreasonable burden upon the agency” even if it provides an easy way to find the information. Therefore, a final verdict could not be generated on whether FCC is wrong by not releasing all of the comments or not.
However, the FCC has released just 1000 complaints for which the NMHC said, “It’s important to remember that the 1,000 complaints received were incomplete and included nothing about the carrier response or how the complaints were resolved.”
As the net neutrality issue is proceeding and the FCC’s proposal is moving towards consideration stages, such lack of transparency could negatively impact the decision-making process. The FCC will be accepting rebuttal comments on the proposal until August 16th.