Yesterday, 28 U.S. senators signed a letter asking the Federal Communications Commission to delay their vote on rolling back 2015 net neutrality regulations. The letter points to the proposal’s public comments being full of fraudulent and redundant comments and argues that a full investigation of that public record should be completed before the FCC votes.
FCC Chairman Pai’s office has already responded that the vote will proceed as scheduled on Dec 14. Rightly so.
Chairman Pai has brought significantly more transparency to this process than was present when the Obama-era net neutrality regulations were passed two years ago. This FCC released their plan more than three weeks in advance of the scheduled vote. That’s in contrast to the text of the 2015 Open Internet Order only being released after the FCC had already voted.
Also, no one could argue with a straight face that there hasn’t been a healthy amount of public debate of the issue of net neutrality. While the sheer volume of press coverage, policy work, and ill-informed celebrity tweets is beyond question, the healthiness of the debate has been suspect. Some opponents of the rollback have resorted to racist slurs against Chairman Pai and even harassing his family at their home.
While the FCC has welcomed input from many interested parties, the public comments were never intended to be a direct democracy vote by the public at large. In George Will’s book on baseball, Men at Work, he writes:
Once when (umpire) Babe Pinelli called Babe Ruth out on strikes, Ruth made a populist argument. Ruth reasoned fallaciously (as populists do) from raw numbers to moral weight: “There’s 40,000 here that know that last one was a ball, tomato head.”
Pinelli replied with the measured stateliness of John Marshall: “Maybe so, but mine is the only opinion that counts.”
The same is true of the FCC commissioners that will vote later this month on rolling back harmful Internet regulations; for now, the only opinions that count are theirs.