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Advocacy Groups Urge the FCC to Hold Field Hearings on Net Neutrality

Largest Online Advocacy Groups to FCC: Get Out of D.C.

Chairman Wheeler must respond to overwhelming public support for Net Neutrality by leaving Washington and meeting face-to-face with Americans

WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, 27 of the nation’s largest online advocacy groups submitted a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the agency to participate in at least four town hall-style public hearings outside the Beltway before ruling on Chairman Wheeler’s Internet proposal.

Earlier this year the FCC put out its proposed rules for public comment. Since then, more than a million individual comments have been submitted. Analysis of the FCC docket has found near-unanimous support for Net Neutrality protections. “Commenters have also overwhelmingly rejected the agency’s proposal to base an Open Internet rule on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act,” the advocacy organizations write.

The groups, which represent more than 20 million people, note a “considerable divide” between Chairman Wheeler’s proposal — which would allow Internet service providers to discriminate in favor of content from wealthy companies — and the Net Neutrality protections the public wants. “The millions of people commenting on this issue have been very clear: The open Internet must be protected. Your agency owes it to the public to convene hearings on Net Neutrality and hear their voices before the Commission makes a final decision.”

The letter is available at http://www.freepress.net/sites/default/files/resources/FCC-Netroots-Letter-09-09-2014.pdf.

The letter was signed by Access, the American Civil Liberties Union, Avaaz, ColorOfChange.org, Common Cause, Consumers Union, the Courage Campaign, CREDO, Daily Kos, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Greenpeace USA, MoveOn.org, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Presente.org, the Progressive Change Campaign Coalition, Progressives United, Public Knowledge, reddit, Represent.Us, RootsAction.org, Rootstrikers, SumOfUs and ThoughtWorks.

On Sept. 10, many of these organizations (and thousands of others) will participate in the “Internet Slowdown,” a day of major online action organized by BattlefortheNet.com.

“An often invisible agency is about to decide the future of our news and information ecosystem. It must not make an invisible decision,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who now serves as a special adviser to Common Cause. “The Commission hears more than enough from inside-the-Beltway lobbyists. Now it needs to hear from the people who will have to live with its decisions.”

“Chairman Wheeler and the FCC need to prove that they work for the American people, not big telecom,” said CREDO Vice President Becky Bond. “The FCC offers ample access to lobbyists from Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. It’s time they agreed to meet in person with some of the millions of Internet users who have submitted public comments opposing the plan to destroy the Internet as we know it.”

“After a record-setting flood of comments for Net Neutrality, Chairman Wheeler can no longer claim that his pay-to-play proposal is the right path forward for the open Internet,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron. “He needs to get out of Washington’s echo chamber and hear directly from the people. And those people are saying with absolute clarity that the FCC must prohibit companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from favoring a handful of websites and services at the expense of all others.”

“As founder of Daily Kos and co-founder of Vox Media, I’ve been part of creating nearly 500 jobs, and none of that would have been possible without a free and open Internet,” said Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas. “The time has come for Chairman Wheeler to get out of his D.C. bubble and engage with the entrepreneurs who are creating the jobs of tomorrow, and the public that benefits from that freedom.”

“If anyone can tell the FCC what’s wrong with a proposal that would allow service providers to be Internet gatekeepers, it’s the everyday people for whom the Internet is a vital tool,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Activist April Glaser. “While written comments can be powerful, the Commission should give Internet users a chance to tell their stories in person, and share their concerns about the future of the Internet.”

“This summer, people in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country demonstrated the power of the open Internet by using it to call attention to the injustice perpetrated there, and to lead a national conversation on racism and police violence,” said ColorOfChange.org Managing Director of Campaigns Arisha Hatch. “Now, Americans are raising their voices in unprecedented numbers to demand that the FCC protect the Internet as a platform where we can communicate and organize online, unmediated by the powerful interests that dominate other media. The FCC needs to listen to these voices.”