Warning that "the future of the entire Internet [is] at stake," two FCC commissioners have requested that the chairman publicly release the specifics of a proposed regulatory overhaul and delay an upcoming vote by 30 days in order to give the public a chance to assess the details.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote Thursday on a 332 page proposal put forth by Chairman Tom Wheeler that would shift the regulation of broadband Internet service from a Title I information service to a more heavily regulated Title II telecommunications service. The outlines of the proposal have been described by Wheeler, but, as is common at the FCC, the full proposal has not been released.
The agency's two Republican-appointed commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, both of whom oppose the proposal, which is backed by Wheeler and the agency's two commissioners appointed by Democrats, issued a public plea for Wheeler to "immediately release the 332 page Internet regulation plan publicly and allow the American people a reasonable period of not less than 30 days to carefully study it."
Wheeler seems intent on moving forward with the vote anyway. "We cannot afford to delay finally adopting enforceable rules to protect consumers & innovators," he posted on Twitter yesterday. The "FCC received more than 4 million comments" on the proposal during the last year, he said. "It's time to act."
Pai argues that the regulations up for a vote this week are vastly different than those that were considered last year. Wheeler revamped his proposal to include the shift to the more heavy-handed Title II regulation after President Obama urged the commission to adopt strict rules late last year.
Along with Sen. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Pai also argues that there's precedent for making the rules public, and a history of calling for extended public review of FCC policy changes. As USA Today reports:
There is precedence for the FCC chairman to make rules public, the commissioners and Rep. Chaffetz said. In 2007, then-chairman Kevin Martin released to the public new media ownership rules and the entire FCC testified in a House hearing prior to the final vote in December.
A senator who supported the FCC's postponement back then, Chaffetz notes, was then-senator Barack Obama. "He specifically noted while a certain proposal 'may pass the muster of a federal court, Congress and the public have the right to review any specific proposal and decide whether or not it constitutes sound policy. And the commission has the responsibility to defend any new proposal in public discourse and debate,'" Chaffetz said citing the original letter sent by Sen. Obama to Martin.
At this point, it seems all but certain that the proposal will remain under lock and key until after the vote. We'll have to pass it to find out what's in it.
Watch ReasonTV's interview with Daniel Berninger about net neutrality and Title II after the jump: