Schumer to FCC: Pay attention to public comments on net neutrality

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to make sure the tens of thousands of people voicing concerns about a new net neutrality proposal get heard.

“While they may not be the businesses from whom you are accustomed to hearing, the fact that ordinary citizens would take time out of their days to weigh in on a complicated regulatory issue is a clear indicator of its significance,” Schumer said in a letter this week.

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Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to move ahead with Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from slowing or blocking access to certain websites until they were struck down by a federal court in January.

Wheeler’s plans, which include a proposal to allow Internet providers to charge websites for better access to users in addition to asking questions about stricter rules, drew ire from both sides of the aisle.

While Republicans criticized Wheeler for trying to revive the rules at all, many Democrats pressed him to go further, including reclassifying Internet providers to treat them like the more heavily regulated telephone companies.

Last month, a group of Democratic senators, including Schumer, sent Wheeler a letter urging him to adopt strong net neutrality.

In his letter this week, Schumer followed up, encouraging Wheeler to take into account the tens of thousands of public comments the FCC has received since its vote last month.

Wheeler should “give significant weight to the public input,” he said.

Schumer pointed to the “nearly 50,000 comments from concerned citizens who share my belief that it is the Commission’s responsibility to protect and preserve an open Internet.”

He compared the public interest in the net neutrality process to less highly watched proceedings at the agency.

"While the Commission is accustomed to hearing from businesses who are concerned with proposed changes to telecommunications law, I cannot recall a time when ordinary Americans have been so engaged in a regulatory issue," he said.

“As you proceed forward in the rulemaking process, I hope and trust that you will heed the will of my constituents and use the full power of your authority to protect internet freedom and accessibility."