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Some GOP Sens. Advise Wheeler to Delay Open Internet Vote

A trio of Republican senators, all members of the Commerce Committee that oversees the FCC, has suggested the FCC may want to delay its vote on a draft of new network neutrality rules, which at press time was scheduled for a May 15 vote.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sens. Deb Fischer (Neb.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Dan Coats (Ind.) said they had "strong reservations" about proceeding to a vote at this time and pointed to calls last week by commissioners Deborah Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and Ajit Pai, to delay the vote, and reports that the Republican members of the commission had been "kept in the dark” about the revised proposal circulated yesterday (actually, sources said the other Democrats only got a little more time from the chairman's office to vet the proposal).

The senators said they thought the FCC needed to give the proposal a "more thorough examination" before voting, including a "rigorous economic analysis." Republicans have been pushing generally for more cost-benefit analysis on new regs out of the FCC.

Additionally, they said, the complexity of the unprecedented incentive auction--whose framework is also scheduled to be voted on May 15 at the FCC's monthly meeting--"warrants the Commission's full and undivided attention."

The two Republican commissioners are expected to vote against the new rules, but it is unclear whether Wheeler has the other three votes locked up. Rosenworcel said that if the FCC did not delay the vote, it should at least allow folks to weigh in past the traditional 7-day quiet period before a vote, which Wheeler subsequently did. But whether that resolved the issue is unclear.

Democrat Mignon Clyburn has not declared herself, but indicated to B&C last week that a vote for the item would not be the end of the process, but would mark the beginning of more comment and input before a vote on any final rules.