In a letter sent today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, a coalition of groups expressed concerns over the agency’s  loss of objectivity and impartiality in recent proceedings, especially the FCC’s ongoing Open Internet rulemaking. The letter urges the Commission to keep partisan politics out of its decision-making process, to avoid spinning media coverage, and to focus on substance, not the total number of comments filed in controversial proceedings.

The letter follows a Washington Post story last week, which reported that the FCC worked exclusively with pro-Title II activists in an “unusual collaboration” ahead of the September 15th Net Neutrality reply comment filing deadline. This had the clear effect of promoting a false media narrative that the flood of comments coming into the FCC overwhelmingly favored stringent, 1930’s-era phone regulations for the Internet.  In fact, nearly a million comments filed during this time opposed Title II regulations, more than were collected by the leading pro-Title II site. But this fact was disclosed by the Commission to neither the public nor media outlets, including the Washington Post, which made no reference of it in its report.

“It is deeply disturbing that FCC staff appear to be disregarding arguments that do not fit a preconceived agenda,” said Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment, which organized over 800,000 comments against Title II.  “As an independent, expert agency, the FCC has an obligation to weigh arguments and evidence evenly before making decisions. However, the FCC’s recent process failures threaten one of the greatest assets of any independent agency: its perceived objectivity.”

The result has been a completely lopsided media narrative describing a groundswell of public support for Title II, with little, if any, mention of widespread support for maintaining the bipartisan consensus against regulating the Internet under Title II. Tellingly, the Post report makes no mention of the nearly one million comments filed against Title II — and the pattern is similar in other news stories.

“Taking sides on a controversial debate like this suggests the FCC has already reached a conclusion and that the rulemaking process is merely political theater,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “Striking the right balance in protecting an Open Internet requires that the FCC carefully weigh legal, economic and technical arguments. That can’t happen if the FCC treats this as an informal plebiscite or a trite popularity contest.”

“We respectfully remind the Chairman that he was appointed to chair a bipartisan commission whose decisions are grounded in special expertise, not politics,” said Timothy Lee, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs of the Center for Individual Freedom. “We can separate our policy disagreements from the processes by which key decisions about the future are made. We hope that the Chairman and his staff attempt to do the same.”

Read the letter here. Find/share this release on Facebook and Twitter, and see our other work on Title II and Net Neutrality, especially:

  • Coalition letter against Title II signed by a broad array of policy groups across the political spectrum, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists
  • DontBreakThe.Net, summarizing arguments against Title II
  • TechFreedom and ICLE’s legal and policy comments and reply comments on the FCC’s Open Internet NPRM

About TechFreedom:

TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.