Group accuses FCC of trying to stifle pro-net neutrality speech

Group accuses FCC of trying to stifle pro-net neutrality speech
© Greg Nash

A public interest group is accusing the Federal Communications Commission of trying to stifle free speech in the debate over net neutrality regulations.

The pro-net neutrality group Free Press sent a letter to FCC general counsel Brendan Carr on Monday expressing concern “about recent actions that call into serious question the Federal Communication Commission’s commitment to fostering free expression.”

Free Press deputy director Jessica González and policy director Matt Wood wrote that at the FCC’s March open meeting, two members of the group’s advocacy wing were barred from entering the hearing room because they were wearing shirts that read “Protect Net Neutrality.”

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The two were apparently told to go into a restroom and turn the shirts inside out.

A spokesman for the FCC, which is moving to overturn the Obama-era rules that reclassified internet service providers, declined to comment.

“It is beyond ironic that the Federal Communications Commission — the government agency charged with promoting First Amendment values — seems intent on violating the First Amendment,” the letter reads.

González and Wood said the incident fit a recent pattern stifling free speech and “mistreating” reporters and spectators at public meetings.

Last month a Roll Call reporter said that he was “manhandled” outside a meeting when he tried to ask Commissioner Michael O’Rielly a question. 

The FCC's proposal to repeal net neutrality regulations will be open for public comment until August 17.