StimulatingBroadband.com 12/02/2010 San Francisco - The release late Tuesday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski of proposed network neutrality regulations marks a new round in one of the most controversial and critically important debates in American tech and telecom policy since the passage of the 1996 Telecom Act.
Send a copy of the Chairman's net neutrality proposal to: firstname.lastname@example.org
As every reader here knows, the reaction to the Chairman's suggested framework approach has been pointed and swift from industry, political, and policy arenas alike. Public interest advocates have called the proposal a sellout to the large carriers. Newly energized Republicans on Capitol Hill have called Genachowski's move outright illegal. The largest cable trade association, the NCTA, applauded the effort. The Chairman's two colleagues from across the aisle, Commissioners Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert M. McDowell, have been nearly as pointed in their criticism as House Republicans.
There is only one important procedural problem in all of this: The document at the center of this critical policy debate, a proposal that has the potential of impacting our economy to the tune of billions of dollars, is not available to the public.
Its secret. Not classified, Wikileaks material secret. You and I can't see it, nonetheless.
The fact you and I can't see it is wrong. Its wrong under our framework of open democratic government. Its wrong under the Administration of President Obama who pledged a new dedication to the goals of openness and transparency. Its wrong under any simple reading of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Its wrong that an arcane procedure of the FCC will keep the document out of public view until voted on by the full Commission, a vote now scheduled for December 21 in this case.
I've spoken and corresponded at some length with Commission staff over the past day in attempts to get a copy of the document for publication. Staff has been incredibly helpful in walking though Commission rules. They have correctly said release of the document would be a violation of those rules. These folks are exemplars of the federal workforce. We are well served by them. They are following the rules, and telling us what Commission policy is. That is their job.
So, here's our pitch to FCC Commissioners, staff, interns, file clerks, and the people that clean the offices; to staff on the Hill; and to attorney - lobbyists with access to pieces of drafts (which is also the way the system works): Send to the email account listed above the Chairman's network neutrality proposed regulations, in any version, form, or finish you have access to. We will publish whatever we receive immediately. The public interest will be served. No one need listen to tiresome iterations about FCC procedures that any Administration truly committed to reform would have tossed out months ago.
You'll feel better when you do it. The document belongs to the American people. The American public has a right to see it, to read it, and to debate it. Those might not be the rules of the agency you work for. They are the rules of the people that founded our nation. They are the rules given to us by a lot of brave men and women buried in American cemeteries all over the world.
Oh, lastly, if anyone wants to know: I personally think Chairman Genachowski is the best thing that's happened to the FCC in a long time. I just have a bad habit of actually believing this stuff about free speech and open government. I have a worse habit of actually holding people that I work to get elected -- people like the guy who appointed the Chairman -- accountable for what they say.
Update: We have issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the document to FCC on December 3. Given that FOIA allows the agency up to 20 business days to respond via either release of the document or citation of 1 or more legal exemptions invoked to continue withholding of the material, that response can take longer than the 3 weeks between now and the Commission meeting of December 21.
FOIA Letter FCC 12-03-2010 Web
- Peter Pratt, Publisher StimulatingBroadband.com