August 13, 2014 / 3:19 PM / 3 years ago

US senator urges FCC net neutrality hearings outside Washington

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on Wednesday called on the Federal Communications Commission to host hearings on its new proposed "net neutrality" rules outside of Washington, not just at its offices in the U.S. capitol.

The FCC is working to write new so-called "net neutrality" rules that regulate how Internet service providers (ISPs) manage traffic on their networks. In January, a federal court struck down their previous version.

More than 1 million comments have poured into the FCC on the issue, many of them in opposition to the rules tentatively proposed by the FCC. The proposed rules, while prohibiting ISPs from blocking any content, suggest allowing some "commercially reasonable" deals where content providers could pay ISPs to ensure smooth and fast delivery of their traffic.

The FCC is now planning six roundtable discussions in September and October at its offices in Washington, where the public can meet with FCC staff to talk about the proposed rules and how they may be changed.

Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, urged to expand the FCC's roundtables to other parts of the country, which the FCC has done in the past on other controversial issues such as changes to the rules restricting who can own how many and what kinds of media outlets in local markets.

"Most of (those who had commented on the proposed rules online) will not be able to come to Washington to participate in the roundtables that have been scheduled, but their voices are more important than industry lobbyists and Members of Congress," Leahy wrote to Wheeler.

An FCC representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FCC is collecting public comments on the proposed net neutrality rules until September 10. The agency has scheduled roundtables on various aspects of the rules on September 16, Sept. 19, Oct. 2 and Oct. 7 in Washington.

Following a firestorm against the proposed rules quickly launched by consumer advocates and some Internet companies, the FCC has sought to ensure it reviews the rules in a transparent matter. Last week, the agency began releasing all comments it received from the public through email, mail and its online comment submission portal in a form of a downloadable database for review and analysis. (Reporting by Alina Selyukh)

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