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E&C Democrats Raise Questions Over FCC’s Review of Net Neutrality Public Comments

Feb 13, 2018
Press Release
“The FCC’s Order gave scant detail about how it approached its unprecedented docket, tucking all description of the process into a few paragraphs”

Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today asking a series of questions surrounding how the FCC reviewed and considered the record 24 million public comments in its proceedings to repeal net neutrality.  The letter was signed by all 24 Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats.

With the record number of public comments and millions of comments considered fake, including submissions from Russian email addresses, the Committee Democrats want to know how the agency reviewed the public’s feedback.  The Democrats wrote that the FCC bears the burden of demonstrating that its analysis is supported by the record, but, to date, the FCC has not properly explained how it came to this result.  For instance, the final Order repealing net neutrality does not cite a single consumer comment filed in the record, while it emphasized filings from a handful of companies.

“The FCC’s Order gave scant detail about how it approached its unprecedented docket, tucking all description of the process into a few paragraphs at the end of a lengthy order,” the Democrats wrote to Chairman Pai.  “While we may not support the outcome of this proceeding, we hope you agree with us that transparency in the process is crucial.  In order to restore public confidence in the integrity of the process and give the American people a better understanding of how the FCC analyzed the comments filed in this proceeding, we request that you provide us information on how the agency reviewed the public comments.”

The Democrats are seeking answers to a series of questions to the FCC, including:

  • The Commission has never handled a docket of this size before or one with so many fraudulent filings.  What public process did the Commission conduct to determine how to handle these novel issues?  How did the Commission generate any guidelines it provided to staff working on this proceeding? 
  • The Order does not cite a single consumer comment.  How many consumer comments were filed in the record? 
  • Chairman Pai has stated that comments filed from Russian email addresses were in favor of net neutrality.  Did the Commission conduct an independent analysis to support this determination? 
  • The FCC has refused to work with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate fraudulent use of Americans’ identities in the record.  Please explain why the FCC decided not to cooperate with this criminal investigation. 
  • How did the FCC determine whether comments were filed by the entity with whom the comments were associated?
  • The Order states that the Commission did not rely on comments filed under “fake” names.  How did the Commission determine which filings used fake names? 
  • Did FCC staff review every comment filed in the docket? How many staff hours did the Commission devote to reviewing the record?

The letter was signed by every Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee: Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Communications and Technology Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA), Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

The Democrats’ letter is available HERE.