One of the most powerful men in the US Senate has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to tour all of the United States of America to hear citizens' views, face to face, on net neutrality.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy said in a letter to chairman Tom Wheeler that the FCC's decision to hold public debates on its proposed open internet rules should not be limited to roundtables in Washington DC – but should instead be held as a series of events around the nation.
Communications watchdog the FCC is in the middle of deciding the fate of net neutrality: the principle of treating all internet traffic fairly; ISPs argue this is unworkable as some packets – such as those in HD TV streams – must be more equal than others.
"Your announcement last week that the Commission will be holding a series of public roundtables to discuss approaches to protecting an open internet was a welcome and much-needed step," Leahy wrote to the FCC's big cheese.
"While the roundtables the commission is holding in Washington will help to promote further public input, I strongly urge you to expand your listening sessions outside of the Beltway."
The FCC said earlier this month it will invite citizens to discuss net neutrality in Washington DC, after the agency was deluged in comments submitted online and by phone by more than one million people. That flood of reaction crashed the FCC's website.
Leahy – who serves as Senate President Pro Tempore and is also on the Senate's Judiciary, Appropriations and Agriculture Committees – said he held a public roundtable in his home state and received valuable insight from business owners and residents.
He is now asking Wheeler to conduct similar confabs around the country to hear from citizens before the FCC issues its ruling on net neutrality provisions.
"Vermonters are not alone, as over a million people from across the country have submitted comments to the commission in its open internet proceeding," Leahy writes.
"Most of them will not be able to come to Washington to participate in the roundtables that have been scheduled, but their voices are more important than industry lobbyists and members of Congress." ®