Leahy: Nation needs a chance to speak out on net neutrality

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wants more than just Beltway views heard as the rules governing Internet traffic are rewritten.

“Holding roundtables across the country will help ensure that Americans have a meaningful opportunity to participate” as the Federal Communications Commission tries to fix its net neutrality rules, Leahy said in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday.

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The agency announced late last week that it would be holding a series of roundtable meetings in September and October at its D.C. headquarters.

Leahy called the roundtables “a welcome and much needed step” as the agency looks to rewrites its rules, which kept Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to websites before they were struck down by a federal court in January.

“Over a million people from across the country have submitted comments to the Commission” as it rewrites the rules, Leahy wrote. “Most of them will not be able to come to Washington to participate in the roundtables that have been scheduled, but their voices are more important than industry lobbyists and members of Congress.”

In the letter, Leahy touched on the July field hearing he held in Vermont to discuss net neutrality and his Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act.

In June, Leahy and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, introduced the bill, aimed at preventing Internet providers from charging websites for better access to users.

The bill targets a proposal from Wheeler that critics say could allow Internet providers to charge for “fast-lane” access to users, leaving everyone but deep-pocketed Internet companies to toil in the “slow lanes.” 

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