Senators Urge FCC To Give Cities More Time To Address Net Neutrality

Senate Democrats in New York and California are urging the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider requests by state officials for more time to submit comments about how net neutrality affects safety.

“Public safety agencies should have an opportunity to provide comments to the Commission about how they are directed impacted by situations such as this -- situations which could be occurring during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” California Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, and New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer write in a letter sent Friday to the FCC.

“Our country remains in the middle of a critical public health emergency with shelter-in-place orders implemented across the country and our first responders actively involved in responding to this pandemic,” they write. “The Commission should not be sending the signal that these cities need to choose between participating in this comment period and responding to this public health crisis.”

The lawmakers are responding to the FCC's refusal to extend the deadline for comments about the potential consequences of the repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules.



Those rules, passed in 2015 and revoked in 2018, prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling online traffic and charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.

Last October, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the revocation, but sent the matter back to the FCC with instructions to examine the implications of the repeal on public safety, the Lifeline program (which subsidizes broadband) and regulations regarding utility poles.

Earlier this year, the FCC put out a call for comments on those three issues. The agency initially set a deadline of March 30, which it later extended to April 20.

Officials from New York City, Los Angeles and Santa Clara recently urged the FCC to grant an additional 60-day extension, due to the ongoing public health crisis.

“Our governmental personnel, including emergency operations staff and centers, continue to be fully occupied by response to the current state of emergency,” they wrote to the FCC. “Despite our best efforts to meet the Commission’s deadline, because many of the Commission’s inquiries request information that can only be provided by these personnel and resources, we have been unable to obtain much of the requested information within the period set by the Commission.”

The FCC rejected that request this week.

The lawmakers are now asking the agency to revisit that decision and grant the 60-day extension "so that public safety personnel ... may both provide their expertise which is essential to (the) Commission's consideration of these proceedings and perform the heroic work that is needed right now to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and safe lives.”

The lawmakers have asked the FCC to respond by Monday.

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