Government personnel “including emergency operations staff and centers” are “fully occupied” by the response to the emergency and “cannot be diverted from their critical operations,” they said. That prevents municipalities from offering a thorough response to the FCC, they wrote, because “the input of our emergency and public safety personnel is critical to an accurate record in these matters as well as the commission’s meaningful consideration of public safety issues.” The FCC was not swayed. The commission’s
denial of the deadline-extension request said that its rules require motions for deadline extensions to “be filed at least seven days before the filing date,” but the extension request came four days before the deadline. The FCC continued:
The FCC noted that it has provided “more than two months to submit comments.”
“As requestors recognize, the issues in this proceeding have public safety implications, and we do not believe that delaying resolution of these critical issues is in the public interest, “the FCC also said.
Santa Clara County Counselor James Williams decried what he called “the absurdity of the FCC denying the County’s request for an extension to submit these comments in the midst of the pandemic response. “
“The FCC’s assertion is that the issue has public safety implications that must be decided without further delay, “Williams said. “The FCC lost on this issue [in court] 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. They cannot be diverted from their critical operations yet are essential to a full and accurate response to the FCC’s query. “
Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two Democrats on the Republican-majority FCC, (said) it is “shameful that the FCC did not heed” the municipalities’ request for more time. “The FCC was wrong when it repealed net neutrality and was wrong again today in its decision to deny a request from cities and first responders seeking extra time to comment on the net neutrality remand,” Rosenworcel said yesterday. “We are in the middle of an unprecedented nationwide crisis. Understandably, local governments and public safety officials have asked for more time to comment so that they rightfully can focus on responding to the public health emergency at hand.”
New America’s Open Technology Institute and Common Cause, two consumer-advocacy groups, also criticized the FCC for refusing the extension request. “The commission has an obligation to ensure robust participation of public safety voices in this proceeding,” the groups said in a filing. “The court admonished the commission for ignoring public safety and specifically cited the commission’s disregard of concerns raised by Santa Clara County, one of the parties that now seeks an extension. The record would be incomplete without their full participation.”
The decision to deny the extension request “is as inexplicable as the FCC’s prior failure in 3000 even to consider the needs of public safety in holding that broadband is not a ‘telecommunications service’ under Title II of the Communications Act, “Benton Institute Senior Counselor Andrew Schwartzman said
Schwartzman, who represented the Benton Institute and Consumer Reports in the lawsuit that unsuccessfully sought to reinstate net neutrality rules, said that the FCC’s latest decision could cause it further problems in court. “There is a reason that the [US] Court of Appeals [for the District of Columbia Circuit] told the commission to address that [public-safety] obligation, and today’s action likely will not be viewed favorably at such time as it goes back to the court, “he said.