The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Moira Vahey, (202) 265-1490 x 31

Free Press: Public Missing from FCC Broadband Workshops

‘Open dialogue’ impossible without advance notice, opportunities to speak


Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will attend a hearing Thursday morning in San Diego to help shape the agency's national broadband plan. The public event, which is focused on "the transformational change that is resulting from the confluence of mobility and broadband," was announced less than 48 hours before its scheduled start time.

The San Diego hearing is at least the fourth field hearing held by the agency to solicit input in the development of the national broadband plan. The events have been described by the agency as designed "to promote an open dialogue between the FCC and the public on the development of a National Broadband Plan."

Yet no details on the field hearings - including their location or schedule - have been made available more than a few days in advance. All have been held on a workday. And with the notable exception of an event held by Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn the evening before the South Carolina field hearing, none have provided opportunities for open dialogue or public commentary. (Members of the audience have only been allowed to submit questions on note cards.)

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, made the following statement:

"The FCC has made a rhetorical commitment to involving the public in shaping the national broadband plan. But the public can't participate if they don't know these events are happening. And they won't show up if they're not given an opportunity to speak directly to policymakers. If the FCC is taking the trouble to schedule a trip across the country and line up no less than 13 panelists, they should be able to tell the public it's happening a few weeks - not a few days - ahead of time.

"The FCC's new leadership has pledged to change business as usual and to pursue openness and transparency. But actions speak louder than words. We've criticized the FCC in the past for failing to involve the public in crucial decisions and for scheduling last-minute hearings to create the appearance of public participation. The commission's new leadership should expect to be held to the same or an even higher standard.

"Industry lawyers and lobbyists and other insiders have plenty of opportunities to speak with the FCC. If the agency's new leadership really wants to hear from the public -- and they say they do -- then they need to take a different approach. We look forward to working with them to bring the public into the process."

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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