Eshoo Calls FCC Decision Not to Extend Comment Deadline 'Offensive'

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) lit into the FCC Monday, calling its decision Monday (April 20) not to extend a net neutrality comment deadline for a second time given the pressing public safety needs in a pandemic offensive and calling for it to rethink that decision. 

The cities of New York and Los Angeles and the Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District all asked for the second extension. 

Related: FCC Extends Comment Deadline

“When the Trump FCC repealed net neutrality two years ago, it completely ignored public safety," said Eshoo in a statement. "Santa Clara County firefighters paid a steep price when Verizon throttled their data speeds as they fought the worst fire in California’s history, and the County was helpless to resolve the issue. The County sued the FCC and the D.C. Circuit Court required the FCC to revisit its net neutrality repeal to account for public safety [as well as the impact on access to poles and conduits and on the Lifeline low income broadband/phone subsidy]".

“Now, when these same first responders of the Santa Clara County Fire Department are requesting a very reasonable extension to file their comments in the FCC’s order because they are on the front lines in responding to the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, chairman Pai has ignored their pleas. The FCC’s decision is shameful, offensive, and dangerous. The FCC must rethink this decision immediately.” 

The Santa Clara fire chief's complaint that the throttling of its data by Verizon while it tried to fight the Mendocino Complex Fire was a threat to life was included in net neutrality activists' appeal of the FCC's net neutrality rollback . 

Verizon subsequently apologized, said it should have lifted the limits in an emergency, will do so as a nationwide policy going forward, and has developed a new offering "that will feature unlimited data, with no caps on mobile solutions and automatically includes priority access." 

But Eshoo, a fan of net neutrality rules, was not assuaged at the time, and was clearly not so this week, either. 

"The COVID-19 crisis has spurred nonstop news coverage for at least the past month over the likely duration and extent of the pandemic," the FCC's Wireline Competition bureau said Monday in explaining why it denied the complaint. "[F]ederal guidelines extending national social distancing recommendations until April 30, for example, were publicly made available on March 31. It is not plausible that Requestors first became aware of their purported need for additional time less than seven days before the deadline for initial comments on April 20. It would be unfair at this late date to extend the comment deadline when other commenters (including, presumably, other states and localities) have been preparing to submit timely filings."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.