Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has made no secret of his plan to gut the net neutrality rules.
Within weeks of Donald Trump's election last year, Pai publicly declared that the rules' "days were numbered." He subsequently opened a proceeding -- absurdly dubbed "Restore Internet Freedom" -- to reverse the regulations.
The Open Internet order, passed by a 3-2 vote in 2015, reclassified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier rules on broadband providers. The regulations prohibit providers from blocking or throttling service and from charging content companies higher fees for faster delivery. The rules also prohibit providers from hindering Web users and content companies from connecting with each other online.
The regulations are supported by consumer advocates and many Silicon Valley companies, who argue that Internet service providers shouldn't be able to serve as gatekeepers to the web. Internet service providers, on the other hand, argue that they shouldn't be subject to utility-style regulations.
Pai's proposed rollback involves reclassifying broadband as an "information" service; if the FCC moves forward with that plan, it will likely also lose the authority to enforce bans on blocking or throttling service.
The FCC's official period for accepting comments expired last month, and the agency theoretically could schedule a vote on the matter in the near future. Given Pai's well-documented views on the regulations, it probably won't surprise anyone if the FCC moves forward soon with a repeal vote.
But some Democratic lawmakers are attempting to at least slow down the repeal effort. Today, nine Senators urged Pai to hold off until people have had time to evaluate more than 47,000 complaints regarding the existing rules.
"The public deserves an opportunity to review and analyze evidence that has a direct impact on the proceeding," Sens. Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Charles Schumer (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Al Franken (Minnesota), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Kamala Harris (California) say in a letter sent to Pai today.
"Although the Commission has undertaken an historic proceeding to undo the Open Internet Order, the FCC has failed to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on the tens of thousands of filed complaints that directly shed light on proposed changes," they write.
The FCC disclosed the complaints in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. But the agency waited until last week to post all of the complaints online.
The lawmakers also suggest that Pai's failure to give people the opportunity to evaluate the evidence -- including the complaints -- could be grounds for a legal challenge, should the FCC reverse the rules. "Under the Administrative Procedures Act, the Commission has an obligation to consider all relevant data and be able to articulate a rational connection between the facts found and the choices made," they write.
They have asked Pai to answer several questions by October 11, including whether the agency plans to give the public enough time to review and comment on the complaints.