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Protect Internet Freedom Seeks FCC Answer on Missing Broadband Privacy Comments

Protect Internet Freedom, a group whose view of that freedom differs markedly from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, has reached out to the FCC to ask why its comments on broadband privacy have not yet shown up in the FCC's docket on the proposal.

That comes as Wheeler is scheduled to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on his proposed broadband CPNI (customers proprietary network information) framework, which includes requiring customers to opt in to the use of their information by third parties for marketing purposes, which is not required of edge providers like Google or Yahoo!.

The group, which has attacked net neutrality as a Communist-like takeover of the internet and calls the privacy rules a "farce," says its supporters have submitted more than 2,200 comments (via an online form) over the past two weeks but none have yet to appear. At press time the docket only had 27 comments total.

The letter actually came from a law firm asked to look into the comments' absence. It submitted a handful of comments it said had FCC status numbers showing they had been received but had yet to be posted.

The letter said counsel assumed there was a valid reason and would endeavor to rectify any problem the FCC identified with the submissions but said it was unclear "why the FCC's comment submission platform has failed to make some comments publicly available while withholding others from public view."

"The FCC is required by law to make public all officially submitted comments in a timely manner," said Protect Internet Freedom in a statement. "It’s also very ironic that this substantial delay comes at the same time that the FCC is proactively working with other groups that are launching an anti zero-rating campaign to help facilitate their comment submissions."

An FCC spokesperson said the commission had been in contact with the group and also said it was ready to rectify any problem with the submissions.

“On Tuesday, Protect Internet Freedom asked FCC staff about the status of comments the group had attempted to transmit via an automated script on its website," an FCC spokesperson said. "FCC staff advised Protect Internet Freedom that the Commission did not have record of receiving the majority of the comments in ECFS, the Commission's electronic comment and filing system."

At a HIll hearing Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was asked about the missing comments and said it had to to with a software glitch on uploaders side but the FCC was in the process of resolving it.

As to the suggestion it had helped the anti-zero rating plan commenters, the spokesperson said. "FCC staff stands ready to provide technical assistance to all individuals and groups wishing to file comments in any proceeding.”

John Eggerton
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.