Op-Ed, 561 words

Can You Hear Us Now?

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is refusing to participate in any public hearings on Net Neutrality.


On a recent Monday night in Brooklyn, five empty chairs stood on stage — one for each member of the Federal Communications Commission. A crowd had amassed in the room for a public hearing to send this message to the agency: Don’t hurt the open Internet.

But the commissioners’ absence sent a stronger message: We’re not listening.

The Corporate Fox in the Chicken Coop, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

When Corporate Foxes Mind Internet Coops, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

The FCC — the agency charged with regulating telecommunications — is expected to vote by the end of the year on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to let Internet service providers (ISPs) offer “fast lanes” to companies that can afford to pay for speedier access.

Hundreds of businesses, organizations, and websites that rely on an open Internet have slammed the plan, which would kill Net Neutrality — the principle that requires ISPs to treat all traffic equally. Net Neutrality has made the Internet an unrivaled space for free speech, civic participation, innovation and opportunity. Without it, a few ISPs would become the gatekeepers of everything we do, say, and see online.

During the public comment period, nearly 4 million people— a record-breaking figure — weighed in on Wheeler’s plan. A whopping 99 percent of these comments oppose this proposal, according to one study.

Given the unprecedented public interest in this issue, many groups have urged the FCC to get out of Washington and host public hearings. But so far Wheeler has ignored this call.

In fact, the FCC has gone out of its way to avoid attending public gatherings like the one in Brooklyn. It’s been more than five years since all five FCC commissioners left Washington together to participate in a public hearing where anyone could testify.

These kinds of public hearings used to be commonplace for the agency, regardless of which political party was in control of Washington. But Wheeler’s FCC is different.

Instead of appearing at events with open microphones, Wheeler — a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries — has opted to attend industry trade shows. In fact, all five commissioners consistently attend the annual conventions of the cable, wireless, broadcasting, and electronics industries.

Yet somehow they just can’t find the time to meet with the public.

The FCC seems to fear hearing from everyday people who use the Internet to communicate, connect, learn, and survive. And while some of the commissioners have left Washington on a few occasions since Wheeler proposed his rules (Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai convened an official FCC hearing in College Station, Texas), the chairman himself has been absent from any public events on Net Neutrality.

“This is a real inflection point for us as a society,” says former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who attended dozens of public hearings during his decade in office and spoke at the event in Brooklyn. “The decisions they’re going to make between now and the end of the year are probably the most important that the FCC is going to make in a generation.”

The commissioners, Copps concludes, shouldn’t vote “until they get out of the Beltway and listen to the people who have to live with the results of their decisions.”

As the clock ticks down to a final FCC vote — which could happen as soon as December — the question looms large: Where is Tom Wheeler? And why won’t he meet with the people he’s supposed to serve?

Candace Clement is the Internet campaign director for Free Press and Mary Alice Crim is the organization’s field director. FreePress.net
Distributed via OtherWords

  • Grant Forbes

    He seems to have made up his mind already.

    • Grant Forbes

      I stand corrected. I was pleasantly surprised by the decision

  • http://www.samuelbass.com/ Samuel J. Bass

    Why the fuck are people not burning this Tom Wheeler and dealer at the stake? Why the hell is he even doing this job if he is completely biased?


      Its not only Tom Wheeler Obama put him in place knowing full well he knew what Obama wanted him to do. F them both..

    • Bernard Dunning

      Because we actually live in a plutocracy and what the public wants has fuck-all to do with what’s actually going to happen.

      • nopenopenope

        Actually, that’s incorrect. The reason you don’t forcibly remove obviously corrupt politicians is that you don’t care enough. That’s not an indictment; it’s logically obvious. People today seem to consider the internet, ‘connectivity’ to be absolutely necessary. It’s painful to imagine life without it. But you should try to imagine life without it more often. You might respond, “but, it’s just not possible to be successful without the internet nowadays. I use it for work…” but you wouldn’t let anybody stand in your way if they were plainly extorting you for food. You should do one of the following: a) acknowledge that the internet is not actually as precious as you feel that it is and consider taking steps to live without it, or at least dramatically reduce your dependency on it; or, b) forcibly remove, by whatever means, the corrupt and selfish entities who deny you access to the precious resource you claim to need.

        • Gonzobot

          The UN has already determined that in today’s world, broadband internet access is a basic human right. This happened years ago already. Stop protecting shitty politicians from their ignorance of the public’s wishes just because you don’t like The Internet and its newfangled confusing terminology – the issue at hand is a public figure taking corporate money to ignore the public interest, and ultimately hurting the public for monopoly status for a few corporate persons.

        • Bben

          Tom wheeler is not even a politician, he was not elected but appointed by the crooked politicians he paid off while he was a lobbyist for the very industry he is now supposed to be regulating. When his term finally ends, he will go back to a lucrative job with the cable companies he openly supports with a huge pay increase for doing a good job for them.

    • lesserlesserwashington

      Because they’re too busy jerking off to porn on the internet to get out and actually vote, much less form a mob to detain, arrest and execute a public official. Complaining on the internet is so much easier than actual revolution.

    • http://www.IndiePundit.com/ IndiePundit
  • deanmass

    Someone needs to drag this ass clown from his home in handcuffs and FORCE him to attend.


      Its not only Tom Wheeler Obama put him in place knowing full well he knew what Obama wanted him to do. F them both.

      • Jardex22

        I can understand how your brash, impulsive typing can lead to a few errors once, but twice? Not only that, but the mistakes are in the exact same place. Bravo.

  • Radu Cimpian

    crooks. theyre all a bunch of crooks robbing the middle class

  • tzs

    This article is a joke. The “public hearing” was an advocacy event organized by a private lobbying group to promote their position on a matter currently before the FCC. Of course no FCC commissioner is going to attend–it would raise serious ethical concerns if any did attend.

    • Ether_Man

      Except by your reasoning, they wouldn’t have attended other advocacy events hosted by the promoters of the other position… So that reasoning simply does not hold…

    • Toby1

      Right. So attending events promoting the cable industry is fine, but not ones representing the public interest.

  • Guest

    Who does the FCC answer to and what’s the best course of action to get that party involved?

  • john clayton

    If politicians and those in charge ignore the public, its time for pitchforks,staves and torches knocking at their door.

  • yournot

    Just shows you, it doesn’t matter who you vote for.

  • Griffin Dolan

    What a shitty human.

  • Donna Anderson

    Obama should fire this thug from “public service” as he has no interest in serving the public. This is abuse of power and chicanery at it’s worst. Make this asshat empty is pockets.