FCC Rejects Calls to Delay Vote, Dismisses Americans as “Desperate”

The battle to save the Internet in the US is heating up as an increasing chorus of Americans call on the FCC to either stop or delay the vote. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai hit back at Americans, saying the vote will not be delayed and that Americans are merely “desperate”.

Next week, the FCC is expected to vote on scrapping network neutrality. The move has caused an uproar as more and more Americans realize what this could mean for the future of their Internet. In response to the potential implications of scrapping network neutrality, Americans across the country have begun pushing back calling on the FCC to not vote to scrap the rules that help protect an open Internet. The calls come from numerous web companies growing increasingly anxious over the FCC vote.

In the wake of possible use of bots to push an agenda of scrapping network neutrality from Russian sources, 28 senators in a joint letter suggest that the vote should be delayed until a thorough investigation cam be complete. From Motherboard:

The group of senators, none of whom are Republicans, are worried that the FCC doesn’t actually understand how the public feels about net neutrality because the public record has been flooded with likely fake comments sent by bots.

“We request a thorough investigation by the FCC into reports that bots may have interfered with this proceeding by filing hundreds of thousands of comments,” the letter from the senators reads.

The senators have good reason to be worried about fake comments sent to the FCC, especially those opposing net neutrality. In total, the FCC released nearly 22 million comments submitted through its website during a public commenting period from April 27 to August 30 of this year. The FCC received significantly fewer online comments—only around 4 million—the last time it asked the public to weigh in on net neutrality in 2014.

Over 80 percent of the comments are believed to have been sent by bots, according to an October analysis conducted by the Gravwell, a data analytics company. Most of the automated comments opposed net neutrality, while around 95 percent of “organic,” or believed to be legitimate comments, favored the current regulations.

The senators are far from alone. A growing chorus of Americans including consumer groups and city level government officials are joining in on the cause to at least delay the vote. From the International Business Times:

With the vote approaching, a coalition of local governments and consumer protections groups sent a letter to the FCC Monday morning asking the commission to delay the vote until a crucial, obscure court case is resolved. Leading those governments is New York City, alongside a host of high profile consumer rights advocates.

At issue is the case FTC vs AT&T Mobility , which could undermine the FTC’s regulatory authority. AT&T’s unorthodox argument: that because part of its business is already regulated by the FCC as a common carrier, the FTC does not have jurisdiction because of what is known as the “common carrier exception.” That exception is normally read to apply to specific activities of businesses and not the entire business itself. Nonetheless, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit originally sided with AT&T. The decision was later vacated and is now being reviewed en banc by the entire court.

If the court review agrees with the court’s original decision, it will effectively mean that the FTC has no regulatory authority. With the FCC ceding its authority to the FTC while simultaneously preempting state authority, a total regulatory vacuum would be the result.

“It would become a total unregulated zone, really and truly,” Harold Feld of the consumer advocate group Public Knowledge, which is distributing the letter to the FCC, told International Business Times late last week. “Because your only options for consumer protection are the FCC, the FTC or the states.”

The FCC is aware of the danger proposed by the outstanding court decision; it’s mentioned in Ajit Pai’s draft order. However, Pai dismisses it out of hand, writing, “we find objections based on FTC vs AT&T Mobility insufficient to warrant a different outcome.”

The calls come on top of joint letters and grass roots movements to halt the scrapping of network neutrality from Internet companies, small businesses – some of whom may be fearing that their very future is at stake.

In response to the growing pressure from ordinary Americans and small business, FCC chairman Ajit Pai rejected the numerous plea’s and blasted them as being “desperate” From Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission will move ahead with its vote to kill net neutrality rules next week despite an unresolved court case that could strip away even more consumer protections.

When contacted by Ars, Pai’s office issued this statement in response to the letter:

This is just evidence that supporters of heavy-handed Internet regulations are becoming more desperate by the day as their effort to defeat Chairman Pai’s plan to restore Internet freedom has stalled. The vote will proceed as scheduled on December 14.

(link via /.)

If anything, it shows that the FCC is increasingly offside with what American’s want for the future of their Internet. On the one hand, you have small businesses fighting for their very survival and Americans growing increasingly worried that the open Internet will be taken away. On the other hand, you have Pai being unsympathetic to these plea’s and, instead, opting to kill the open Internet to bolster the profits of a small handful of large corporate ISPs instead. That’s the image that is being portrayed today.

At this stage, the probability is very high that secondary measures need to be planned out for those wanting to save the Internet. Most suspect litigation will follow the vote. Regardless of the next steps, it’s likely supporters of the Internet are going to need to figure out a plan B.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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