Republican members of the FCC said they did not get an advance summary of the FCC chairman's major network neutrality proposal, and have some concerns about what they call a "monumental" undertaking.
In a combined statement, FCC Republicans Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker said Monday that they had not been given a draft or summary of proposed network neutrality rules and were concerned that those rules would reverse "decades of precedent" and a Clinton-Gore administration bipartisan policy "to allow a diverse assortment of technical experts, rather than politicians and bureaucrats, working in loosely knit non-governmental organizations to make such engineering decisions."
"All four commissioners were briefed individually about the speech by the chairman, " according to a source familiar with the chairman's actions.
Still, it was aguabley the first big wrinkle in the collegial public face of the FCC under the new chairman.
That joint statement came in a response to a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution where the chairman said he would propose at the October meeting that the commission adopt two new network openness principles and codify the ones it already has, though only, he said, after a thorough inquiry featuring hearings and lots of public input.
Baker and McDowell said they shared the goal of "ensuring a free and open Internet," and they were concerned that the "factual and legal conclusions may have been drawn before the process has begun."
If so, that would go against the chairman's stated goal of having data drive policy conclusions, rather than the other way around.
They also suggested that the FCC may have provided some fodder to Comcast in its challenge to the FCC's BitTorrent decision, in which it found that the cable operator violated the FCC's Internet openness policy. "Curiously, today’s speech appears to admit that the Commission did not have enforceable rules at the time of last year’s Comcast/BitTorrent decision while the Commission simultaneously files its appellate brief defending that decision," they said.
While they said they would look forward to reviewing any evidence of "palpable harms" that many are alleging, they also said: "We do not believe that the Commission should adopt regulations based merely on anecdotes, or in an effort to alleviate the political pressures of the day, if the facts do not clearly demonstrate that a problem needs to be remedied. "
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, also took issue with the proposal as well as the way it was delivered.
“I am concerned by Chairman Genachowski’s announcement that he intends to adopt proposed Internet regulations governing net neutrality that will inhibit the way Internet providers control their networks," he said Monday in a statement. Stearns says he fears the rules would inhibit investment.
The Chairman neglected to mention this proposal at our FCC oversight hearing held on Thursday, and it also appears that he failed to give his Republican colleagues on the commission much advance notice of his planned announcement or the opportunity to discuss the underlying issue," he said. "The Chairman spoke at our hearing of returning data-driven analysis and transparency to the FCC, and his first major announcement appears to fall short of this.”