Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler may have just hit a snag in rushing his net neutrality proposal into the procedure pipeline at the May 15 meeting.
On Wednesday, both Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn pushed back on Wheeler's net neutrality proposal. They represent critical votes that Wheeler needs in order to move the proposal forward.
Both are being bombarded by consumers that are worried Wheeler's proposal doesn't go far enough in preserving an open Internet. In a blog post, Clyburn noted that "over 100,000 Americans have spoken" via email, calls and letters.
Rosenworcel, citing the outcry, said she thought the commission should delay consideration of the rules by at least a month.
"I have real concerns about the process," Rosenworcel said in a speech before the Chief Officers of State Libraries in Washington, D.C. "His [Wheeler's] proposal has unleashed a torrent of public response. Tens of thousands of e-mails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet. We need to respect that input, and we need time for that input. So while I recognize the urgency to move ahead and develop rules with dispatch, I think the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road."
Unless the FCC delays the net neutrality proceeding, the public comment period ends on Thursday. "I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his proposal…. This is not business as usual," Rosenworcel said.
But Wheeler isn't budging, according to an FCC spokesperson who said that Wheeler intends to move foward to put his proposal up for public omment. "Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposal plan without delay, and bring us closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online," said the spokesperson in a statement.
The FCC is set to vote May 15 on a notice of proposed rulemaking to advance consideration of Wheeler's proposed net neutrality rules.
What has caused the entire ruckus is the belief that Wheeler's proposal could create "commercially reasonable" Internet fast lanes, allowing companies with the deepest pockets to pay Internet service providers for preferential treatment.
Consumers fear they would be left to pick up the tab.
But right now, until the FCC adopts net neutrality rules, there are no rules.
The chairman's staff have met with nearly 100 stakeholers, public interest groups, content providers, Internet companies and interested parties. They all will still have the opportunity to comment after the May 15 vote before the commission makes a final decision.