Net neutrality rules delayed by conservative FCC commissioners

As the FCC prepared to vote on strong net neutrality rules, conservatives, including the commission’s two Republican appointees, made no secret of their disdain for the FCC’s supposed lack of transparency.

Despite the fact that independent regulatory agencies regularly withhold the details of proposed rules until they have been passed, conservatives made this secrecy a core part of their opposition to the net neutrality regulations.

Conservative commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly both used their pre-vote speeches at Thursday’s open meeting to criticize the FCC for refusing to let the American people read the draft regulations prior to the vote. House Speaker John Boehner blasted the FCC for what he called a “total lack of transparency and accountability.”

“The text of the proposal is being kept hidden from the American people and their elected representatives in Congress,” Boehner said.

The document’s release, however, could hinge more on the conservative commissioners’ filing of their dissents than on the chairman’s reluctance to go public with the regulation.

Before the rule can be released, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s staff must incorporate responses to the dissenting commissioners’ opinions into the discussion section of the document.

“What we have to address in the final order is their dissent,” FCC press secretary Kim Hart told the Daily Dot by phone.

“As is typical for a final rule and order, the final document is not available until staff makes final edits, which must be cleared by each commissioner,” Hart added in a statement.

Hart also estimated that this process could take several weeks.

After a commissioner has read his or her oral dissent at an open meeting, that commissioner has the option of amending the dissent for inclusion in the official record.

“It is possible for a commissioner to have one transcribed statement from the meeting and attach another one to the item,” Hart told the Daily Dot.

Robin Colwell, chief of staff to Commissioner O’Rielly, told the Daily Dot that the commissioner would file a formal document sometime early next week, but dismissed the idea that the conservative commissioners could be blamed for a delay in the rule’s release.

“They have what we’ve given them,” Colwell said. “We’ll give them a longer version on Monday. This idea that we’re some sort of holdup in this process…they can put it out whenever they would like.”

The Daily Dot asked a spokesperson for Commissioner Pai if he had submitted his dissent. We will update if we hear back.

Update 2:54pm CT: Clarified the material that the chairman’s staff was waiting for and added FCC comments.

Update 4:23pm CT: Added comments from Commissioner O’Rielly’s office.

H/T Motherboard | Photo via Key Foster/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

Eric Geller

Eric Geller

Eric Geller is a politics reporter who focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, encryption, and privacy. A former staff writer at the Daily Dot, Geller joined Politico in June 2016, where he's focused on policymaking at the White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, and the Commerce Department.