Advocacy Groups to FCC: Hold Town Hall Meetings on Net Neutrality

Twenty seven advocacy groups on Tuesday called on the Federal Communications Commission to hold four public hearings across the United States before issuing Net neutrality rules.

The groups including American Civil Liberties Union, Consumers Union and Free Press urged FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his colleagues to “leave Washington and directly engage with the public in open dialogue on this issue at four town-hall style hearings across the country.”

The FCC voted in May to propose Net neutrality, a third attempt to regulate the Internet after previous attempts were foiled by the courts. The proceeding has reportedly garnered an unprecedented number of public comments.

Under the proposal spearheaded by Wheeler, broadband providers would be required to disclose their network-management practices to consumers, and fixed high-speed carriers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon would be forbidden from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. The FCC also has proposed barring fixed broadband providers from engaging in “commercially unreasonable practices”.

One of the Net neutrality debates revolves around FCC’s legal authority to regulate the Internet under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 or a provision of federal law (Title II of the Communications Act) that dates back to an era of monopolies. The advocacy groups are lobbying FCC to invoke their authority under Title II while big phone companies like AT&T and Verizon maintain such a decision would be an overreach by the government that could stifle innovation and investment.

“Commenters have also overwhelmingly rejected the agency’s proposal to base an Open Internet rule on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act,” the advocacy groups wrote to Wheeler. “In fact, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear in its January decision that Section 706 does not provide the FCC with the authority to ban unreasonable discrimination, access fees, paid prioritization, exclusive deals, or discriminatory exemptions to bandwidth caps.”

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