It’s wonderful that more than 900,000 Americans have expressed their opinions in the first round of Open Internet comments. The Commission’s decision to extend until Friday the period for public comments on the Open Internet proceeding reflects both the public’s interest in the topic as well as the antiquated IT capabilities of the agency that have not been able to handle the surge of comments.
The FCC has been forced by budget restrictions to operate with an IT infrastructure that would be unacceptable to any well-managed business. Efforts to upgrade this IT capability were a casualty of sequestration. Most recently, the agency requested of Congress approximately $13 million for IT upgrades in the FY 2015 appropriation. I appreciate that the Senate subcommittee has provided the Commission with full funding in its FY 2015 spending bill, so that we can make these important upgrades. Unfortunately, the appropriations bill passed by the House today would fund the FCC at $17 million below current levels and $53 million below our overall budget request, dramatically undermining any effort to modernize our IT systems.
The ability to improve the FCC’s internal procedures – an important priority for Congress – will be hurt without 21st Century IT infrastructure.
The ability of the public to communicate with their government has – as we have seen – already has been hurt by the inability of the FCC to receive all of their comments without complication.
The ability of those companies the FCC regulates to express their views is similarly hurt by an infrastructure none of them would tolerate in their own companies, even though their fees pay for the FCC budget without touching tax dollars.
It is particularly distasteful that the FCC – the agency entrusted with promoting a world-class broadband infrastructure for the nation – could ever be incapable of dealing with Americans expressing themselves via that broadband capability.
I am hopeful that leaders in Congress, recognizing the importance of these systems to the public’s ability to communicate their views to the FCC without complication or delay, will ultimately reach agreement on funding levels that ensure we have the resources to modernize and upgrade our IT systems.
Make no mistake about it. The impact of outdated IT is important because we want to hear from the American people. That citizens take the time to reach out to their government is democracy in action. Indeed, we are fighting for an Open Internet precisely because it is needed in order to promote and protect the unrestricted flow of diverse ideas (as well as innovative products and services from the edges of the network ). We best serve that ideal, and the American people, by putting the resources to bear to make sure that their opinion on any matter can reach the FCC without delay. I hope that the outpouring of comments this week will help drive that conclusion home.