08.13.14

Leahy Urges FCC To Reach Beyond The Beltway For Feedback On Net Neutrality

Calls For a Series of Roundtable Talks Across the Country on Important Consumer Issue

WEDNESDAY, August 13, 2014 – As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers how best to restore open Internet protections in light of a D.C. Circuit Court decision earlier this year, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday urged the FCC to listen to the voices of Americans outside of Washington who will be affected by their decisions.

Leahy, who chairs the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and who last month held a field hearing in Vermont on the issue, called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to conduct a series of roundtable discussions outside of Washington so that more Americans can provide feedback on the FCC’s proposed net neutrality rules.

“This is an issue of fundamental importance to free speech and economic growth in the United States and it is critical that meaningful rules are put in place that protect consumers and promote innovation,” Leahy wrote in a letter sent to Wheeler Wednesday. “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.”

In May, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released proposed rules that critics contend could pave the way for so-called “paid prioritization” agreements between a broadband provider and a content provider. More than one million Americans have provided feedback to the FCC about the proposal and alternative approaches. In his letter to Wheeler, Leahy said the voices of these Americans and so many others should be heard as the FCC considers how to restore an open Internet for all. 

“Over a million people from across the country have submitted comments to the Commission in its open Internet proceeding.  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,” Leahy wrote.  “Holding roundtables across the country will help ensure that Americans have a meaningful opportunity to participate.”

A copy of the letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler can be found online and below.

 

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The Honorable Tom Wheeler

Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

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.  This is an issue of fundamental importance to free speech and economic growth in the United States and it is critical that meaningful rules are put in place that protect consumers and promote innovation.  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.

In July, I held a Senate Judiciary Committee field hearing in Vermont on the importance of protecting an open Internet.  That hearing allowed the Committee to hear from voices that otherwise would not have had an opportunity to be heard in Washington.  These voices included small business owners like Cabot Orton of the Vermont Country Store and Lisa Groeneveld of Logic Supply, Inc.  Both of these companies are great Vermont success stories thanks to the equalizing power of the Internet.

Mr. Orton explained how the Vermont Country Store, which was founded in 1945, now relies on Internet sales for 40 percent of its business.  This allows his company to keep all of its 450 employees in Vermont.  Ms. Groeneveld’s company, Logic Supply, which designs and manufactures industrial computers for sale to customers all over the world, relies on its website for all of its revenue.  The Internet allows Logic Supply to have a global reach from its headquarters in South Burlington, Vermont.  I found their perspectives to be incredibly valuable and relevant to the current net neutrality discussion.

Mr. Orton and Ms. Groeneveld are only two of the thousands of Vermonters who care deeply about the need to maintain an open Internet.  Vermonters are not alone, as over a million people from across the country have submitted comments to the Commission in its open Internet proceeding.  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.  Holding roundtables across the country will help ensure that Americans have a meaningful opportunity to participate.

Sincerely,

Patrick Leahy

United States Senator

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