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FCC Transparency Called Into Question

by Bill

AJIT Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said in February that he wanted the agency to be “as open and accessible as possible to the American people.” Now people are calling that statement into question due to some key information that has become surprisingly hard to acquire.

The FCC’s recent handling of complaints from the public about internet providers and the still murky cause(s) of a May 7th outage of the public comments section of the FCC’s own website are garnering interest from politicians and the public.

“Chairman Pai promised to make the FCC more transparent, but the early returns aren’t looking good,” says U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), in a statement. “The FCC seems more concerned with helping Big Cable than living up to his promise.”

Pai declined to be interviewed with Wired Magazine about the issues but a spokesperson told the magazine that the chair “is proud of the transparency measures he has instituted at the FCC.”

Still complaints persist about a lack of transparency at the FCC regarding the commission’s stated plan to reverse some of its own net-neutrality rules, which have always prohibited internet providers from favoring some forms of traffic over others.

The FCC has stated that it received only one formal complaint about the shift in policy, but fails to mention that the agency received more than 47,000 informal complaints about net-neutrality violations since the rules took effect in 2015. That’s significant because a formal complaint costs $225 to file, and often require lawyers, procedural rules, and written pleadings. Informal complaints can be filed online for free with a simple online form. Accurate accounting of actual complaints continues to be elusive and on July 26th, the American Oversight sued to obtain the records, but again the FCC declined to comment on the suit.

A May 7th outage of the commission’s public comment system followed a segment of the television show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in which the host asked viewers to file comments about net neutrality. The next day, the FCC blamed the outage on a cyber attack saying: “Our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks,” according to FCC chief information officer David Bray in a statement published on May 8th. “These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic.”

However, Journalist Kevin Collier filed suit against the agency after it did not respond to his April 26 FOIA request. The FCC told tech news site Gizmodo it had no records prior to Bray’s statement related to the “analysis” he referenced.

It becomes increasingly difficult for an agency like the FCC is claim net neutrality is not in the public interest, when clearly the public keeps saying it is… and the FCC has decided to stop accurately reporting what the public has been saying all along.

We will continue to monitor this story and the political chatter regarding net neutrality as it directly affects our clients and the Internet in a broader sense. When regulations change, business strategies must adapt and National Net is always about putting our clients first, with as much foresight as we can muster to assist in delicate process of staying ready for whatever comes down the pipe… transparently announced or otherwise.

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