Facebook may not be the only one making headlines this week for potentially blocking online content that runs contrary to its views. Protect Internet Freedom members have been very vocal in their opposition to the FCC for new privacy regulations that bind everyone else in red tape while excluding Google, and other corporate cronies that supported Obama’s Internet takeover.
Over the last several weeks we’ve rallied our supporters to submit more than 2200 comments to the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) questioning Google’s special treatment. As of today, not one of those comments has been posted publicly in the official docket. At the same time, comments supporting the FCC’s privacy proposal are often posted to the docket in as little as 24 hours after submission.
Protect Internet Freedom recently retained counsel to look into this matter. Yesterday, she sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asking what the deal is. The FCC is required by law to make public all officially submitted comments in a timely manner. In fact, as was reported just this week, the FCC often works proactively with groups that support its agenda to help facilitate their comment submissions in an efficient and timely manner.
No such luck apparently for consumers who are on the other side of the FCC’s seemingly endless Internet regulations.
This morning, Politico’s Morning Tech covered the news on the FCC blocking our members’ comments, reporting that an FCC spokeswoman claimed that we were told that the FCC “did not have record of receiving the majority of the comments in ECFS,” but that the agency “stands ready to provide technical assistance” to anyone who wants to file comments in any proceeding.
That’s a much different story than what we have experienced. Here are the facts:
April 26th – Protect Internet Freedom begins receiving member comments through our online platform that are duly submitted into the FCC’s docket.
April 27th – April 27th – Protect Internet Freedom submits a comment from one of our members directly into FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).
May 3 – PIF counsel calls the ECFS help desk and speaks with a representative in the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, Competition Policy Division. She is told the fact that our comments haven’t posted is “highly unusual” and that they would look into the situation. To his credit, he emailed a week later asking if the problem had been resolved.
May 9 – Ten additional comments are submitted directly into the ECFS. Here’s an example of one of the confirmation lookups from the FCC after the comment was submitted:
May 10 – PIF staff contacts the ECFS Help Desk over the phone and spends 20 minutes discussing the issues we’ve faced so far.
The staffer claims that the delays are the result of receiving too many comments in unrelated dockets, but confirms that the comment submitted to the FCC two weeks earlier on April 27 is there.
Then things get weird…
The staffer publishes the April 27th comment to the ECFS but then it is immediately deleted!
We then request technical assistance to troubleshoot the issue with comments PIF has submitted that the FCC cannot locate. The ECFS staff person states that they do not offer personnel to assist with the submission of comments through other sites, and that no one from their technical services will be made available to review the problem with PIF. When pressed that recently published press accounts suggest the opposite, she reiterates “we just don’t have the staff for that.”
May 10 (4:00 pm) – A letter from PIF counsel to Chairman Wheeler is delivered to the FCC asking for assistance in submitting our members’ comments into the FCC docket.
Then things get really weird…
May 10 (4:30 pm) – Thirty minutes after our letter is delivered to the Chairman, PIF checks the FCC public docket in the privacy proceeding again, only to find that we are now being completely blocked from accessing the docket at all with a “Security Violation” message. Oddly, we are able to access other dockets in the ECFS system, but are frozen out of the Privacy NPRM docket entirely. Click here to see how we were allowed into other dockets, but blocked in the privacy docket.
Whether it is plain old incompetence or something even worse, this is not how an “expert agency” of the federal government should operate. FCC Chairman Wheeler will be testifying this afternoon before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law on the proposed privacy rules. It would be an opportune time for him to explain exactly why comments dissenting to his privacy NPRM aren’t showing up in the docket while those in support are enjoying a fast lane.
When it comes to regulating the Net, this FCC is anything but neutral. If you’re as frustrated as we are, let the FCC know by clicking here.