FCC Urged To Release 47,000 Net Neutrality Complaints

Advocacy groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission to disclose details about thousands of informal consumer complaints relating to the net neutrality rules.

Those rules, which went into effect in June 2015, classified broadband service as a utility and imposed several common carrier rules on providers, including so-called "bright line" prohibitions on blocking and throttling traffic. The rules also require broadband providers to disclose their practices.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed rolling back the rules by reclassifying broadband as an information service -- a move that likely would also deprive the agency of authority to enforce bans on blocking or throttling service. The agency is only accepting comments on that proposal until Aug. 30.

Since the 2015 rules went into effect, the FCC has received 47,000 informal complaints. The National Hispanic Media Coalition filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the consumers' complaints in May. The following month, the FCC released 1,000 of the complaints, and offered to make an additional 2,000 available by September 1 -- two days after the deadline for commenting on the proposed rollback.

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Now, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Free Press, Public Knowledge and 13 other advocacy groups say they are "deeply troubled" that the FCC hasn't yet released the material. They argue that the public needs to learn what kinds of net neutrality concerns have been raised so far, in order to respond to Pai's proposal.

"Consumers likely use the informal complaint mechanism to address harms caused by ISPs that violate the current bright-line Net Neutrality rules and transparency rules," the groups write in a letter submitted to the agency this week.

The groups contend that the FCC's "failure to address, analyze, and release all these documents for review" before the deadline for submitting comments raises concerns about whether the agency is following required procedures.

"Every day of delay is one more day that the FCC shirks its duties," the groups write. "In the interest of proper rulemaking the FCC should immediately release the over 47,000 consumer complaints ... and allow the public sufficient time to review and comment on them."

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