The Federal Communications Commission rejected calls from city governments on Monday asking for the agency to extend the comment filing period for part of its 2018 net neutrality rollback, rebuking their effort to gain more time to respond to the docket during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
New York City, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara County wrote to the FCC last week asking for an additional 60 days to file comments beyond the April 20th deadline as they continue to battle the pandemic. It’s the coalition’s second bid to extend the deadline. In March, the FCC granted a 30-day extension request from the cities but denied this second, last-minute effort.
“Jurisdictions around the country — including in the Cities of Los Angeles and New York and the Count— have ordered residents to shelter in place,” the coalition wrote last week, “and many essential public safety and public health officials are working around the clock to protect residents from the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
In 2019, the FCC’s decision to repeal its net neutrality rules was broadly upheld by a federal court. Still, several gray areas remained, including how the rollback could affect public safety. As part of the court’s decision, it required the FCC to seek public comment on issues of safety. In its docket, the FCC asked questions like how internet speed prioritization could benefit organizations.
Santa Clara County, which requested an extension, was part of the group of organizations that brought the initial lawsuit against the FCC because of its net neutrality rollback. In 2018, California was ravaged by wildfires. During this time, Santa Clara County firefighters had their device speeds slowed down, or throttled, by Verizon while battling the fires.
“The FCC lost on this issue precisely because it did not fully consider the repeal’s threats to public safety, and now it is attempting to cook the books by manipulating the timing of public comments in the middle of a pandemic that local public servants—our front-line defenders—are heroically battling,” Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams said in a statement Tuesday.
Net neutrality proponents in Congress are condemning the FCC for not granting a second extension. “The FCC’s decision is shameful, offensive, and dangerous. The FCC must rethink this decision immediately,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) said.
The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it wrote in its Monday order that a “further extension of time is not warranted” and that another delay could cause its own “public safety implications.”