Groups urge FCC to release net neutrality complaints

Groups urge FCC to release net neutrality complaints
© Greg Nash

Public interest groups opposed to the repeal of net neutrality rules are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release a trove of documents in an effort to keep the rules in place.

Sixteen groups signed a letter urging the FCC to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for tens of thousands of  complaints that have been filed since the net neutrality rules were implemented in 2015.

They also called for the FCC to delay its repeal of the rules, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally, until the complaints have been released and reviewed.


“It is disturbing that the FCC has apparently failed to review documents that are in its exclusive possession prior to crafting [a notice of proposed rulemaking] to repeal the very rules that established these enforceable mechanisms to redress consumer harms,” the letter reads.


The letter was signed by groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Common Cause.

Supporters of the Obama-era rules are hoping that the complaints will show a need for the regulations to remain in place. Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has argued that the net neutrality rules are too onerous and has questioned the necessity to ban internet service providers from engaging in discriminatory conduct.

Last month, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a motion to delay the net neutrality rollback until the FCC complied with its FOIA request. The group says the FCC is only willing to hand over a fraction of the 47,000 informal consumer complaints about open internet violations it requested.

“In order for the FCC to adequately and fully address these procedural concerns, it must not only release the documents requested by NHMC, but also allow additional time for comment and analysis,” Tuesday’s letter reads. “As it stands, the Commission has unreasonably delayed the release of such documents.”

FCC spokeswoman Tina Pelkey said on Tuesday that releasing the documents is a slow process, pointing to redactions needed protect consumer privacy.

"Pursuant to FOIA, the FCC must redact any personal information from the over 47,000 documents that have been requested before they can be released," Pelkey said in a statement to The Hill. "Currently, Commission staffers are in the process of reviewing these documents and redacting any personal information."

Pelkey said that the FCC will release a batch of documents in response to the FOIA request this week. 

--This report was updated at 12:11 p.m.