Over at The Verge, editor-in-chief Nilay Patel is urging his readers to contact the Federal Communications Commission and urge the regulator to stand up for consumer protections, competition and to classify the Internet as a utility. The post includes a big graphic with the FCC’s phone number and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s email, encouraging readers to weigh in.
The passionate post and call to action is missing a key component, however: a link to the new public docket on the Open Internet where people can submit official comments through the commission’s electronic file system. As useful as it might be to get the FCC’s phone’s ringing — and as entertaining as it might seem to make the FCC chairman’s ability to get to Inbox Zero impossible — not sending a river of traffic to that docket means that people won’t be adding their voices to those of the companies that are being regulated.
That’s a shame: These comments are entered into the public record and are legally binding. If this is something you care about, on either side of the issue, go weigh in here.
Unfortunately, people are continuing to comment on docket for the first open Internet rulemaking, from years ago. Given that the FCC has no indication on thus FCC.gov webpage that it’s the old one, you can hardly blame them. You can still see all of the old filings online from 2009 at the FCC’s ECFS system, from Level 3 Communication’s recent plea to avoid “anticompetitive, monopoly rent-seeking conduct” one from one B.Davis”: “It is vital that the internet stay neutral and an open field without influence forced upon consumers by internet providers. The internet should be considered as a utility.”
The relaunch of FCC.gov years ago was supposed to make all this easier.
““It is our intention that every proceeding before the agency will be available for public comment,” United States Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told me. (He was the managing director of the FCC then). “If we think of citizens as shareholders, we can do a lot better. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, agencies will get public comments that enlighten decisions. When citizens care, they should be able to give government feedback, and government should be able to take action. We want to enable better feedback loops to enable that to happen.”
As he noted then, comments from Broadband.gov or OpenInternet.gov were entered into the public record. “Today, you can take us to court with one of the blog comments from Broadband.gov,” said VanRoekel. “More than 300,000 citizens gave comment on the Open Internet proceeding.”
Unfortunately, the FCC is not going the extra mile to get people onto the docket. While the commission has tweeted links to the chairman’s statements and fact sheet, they haven’t tweeted or put up a blog post that will lead people directly there. To be blunt, not doing so looks like public engagement malpractice to me, promulgating press releases but failing to directly engage the American people on an issue of public interest using free social media tools and considerable platform the agency has built over the years.
The FCC may be seeking public comment but anyone clicking this tweet would be hard pressed to figure out how to give it: there’s no link to the Open Internet proceedings on the page.
— The FCC (@FCC) February 19, 2014
— The FCC (@FCC) February 27, 2014
As of March 5th, there were 9,341 comments submitted to proceeding 14-28.
UPDATE: As of May 15, the day of the FCC Open Hearing on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Open Internet, the 14-28 docket had received 21,017 comments. Watch live online at FCC.gov/live.