No net neutrality news from the Pai hole

The public comment period on net neutrality might be closed but FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai doesn’t want to talk about it.

Internet users, advocates and artists alike all have a lot to say about net neutrality. In fact, more than 22 million comments were filed on the changes Pai introduced earlier this year.

In short, Pai believes the protections put in place by the previous commissioner and a majority Democratic board are a “solution in search of a problem.” He believes regulating internet service as a utility, like electricity or gas, will hamper investment and innovation and discourages new businesses from getting involved.

The vast majority—60% or more—submitted comments in support of the current regulations, many sources report. Rallies and protests and action days occurred all summer in support of net neutrality. Artists, including actors and musicians, believe a free and open internet is the best way to encourage and develop new talent and give independent musicians in particular a better chance of reaching new fans.

Since the comment period closed on August 30, Pai’s been mum. He’s not said a word about net neutrality.

That might not be a bad thing. There’s some speculation—voiced by Pai but now being echoed by publications including Wired—that a good number of pro-net neutrality comments were filed by fake names.

To be fair, the FCC also said it was not going to discredit comments filed in support of Pai’s proposed changes. So. There you have it.

Anyway, now pro-net neutrality Democrats in the US Senate are asking Pai to sit tight on making any big changes, like implementing those he introduced in April.

A group of nine senators argue that Pai should take no further action at this time because… well, the public needs time to read and comment on the public comments submitted about proposed changed to net neutrality.

Got that?

“Although the commission has undertaken an historic proceeding to undo the Open Internet Order, the FCC has failed to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on the tens of thousands of filed complaints that directly shed light on proposed changes to existing net neutrality protections,” according to the letter, which originated from Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

The FCC did turn over some 70,000 pages of documents that were requested via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, submitted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. According to The Hill, the organization wanted to review “all complained filed by consumers about violations of the net neutrality rules since they went into effect in 2015.”

The group of nine senators – which includes Chuck Schumer (NY), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Al Franken (Minnesota), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (California)—says the American people deserve the ability to review the 70,000 pages for themselves and provide additional comment before Pai and the FCC do anything else.

By the way, the final tally for all those net neutrality comments? An astonishing 22,150,396, according to Broadcasting Cable.

Whether the commission takes up net neutrality during its scheduled October meeting, or at all before the end of the year, remains to be seen.   But Pai isn’t giving any indication when he’ll speak.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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