Senate Republicans call for delay on FCC ‘fast lanes’ vote

Senate Republicans are calling on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to postpone the agency’s Thursday vote on Wheeler’s proposal to allow Internet “fast lanes.”

In a letter to Wheeler on Wednesday, Senate Republicans expressed “strong reservations” and asked that the FCC push back its preliminary vote to begin considering Wheeler’s proposal to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules.

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“Both the Commission and Congress should have sufficient time to review any proposal on net neutrality prior to further action,” said the letter signed by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).

Last month, Wheeler announced that he would rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, which were struck down by a federal court earlier this year, to allow Internet providers to charge for better access to users.

Wheeler faced immediate backlash from Democrats and public interest groups, who said the rules were too weak, and from Republicans, who said the agency should drop its attempts to resurrect the defunct rules.

The three Senate Republicans urged Wheeler to push back the vote to consider that backlash.

“To date, the commission has received over 35,000 public comments since your original proposal was first made public,” the senators wrote.

“We believe a more thorough examination of your proposal, including a rigorous economic analysis, is required.”

In response to the backlash Wheeler faced, he has this week been circulating revisions that give more consideration to other options on the table, including reclassifying Internet providers to treat them like the more heavily regulated telephone companies.

In their Wednesday letter, the Senate Republicans pointed to reports that the commission’s two Republicans, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, received Wheeler’s revised proposal on Tuesday, a day after the agency’s Democratic offices received the newest version.

“Transparency is paramount in this process, and forcing through regulations in a non-transparent way does a disservice to consumers, businesses, and American taxpayers,” the senators wrote.

Additionally, the senators urged Wheeler to focus on the other highly anticipated item on the FCC’s agenda for Thursday: rules for the agency’s 2015 airwave auction.

“We believe the complexity and unprecedented nature of the upcoming broadcast incentive auction warrants the Commission’s full and undivided attention at this critical time,” the letter said.