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FCC Faces Critical Twitterverse in Net Neutrality Q&A

The FCC spent an hour on Twitter fielding questions about its net neutrality proposal, facing an enthusiastic but merciless crowd.
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The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device on November 7, 2013 in London, England.Bethany Clarke / Getty Images file

An FCC representative spent an hour on Twitter Tuesday afternoon explaining and defending controversial proposals that could potentially end the policy of net neutrality. It won't quiet critics, but it does emphasize the idea that the rulemaking process is ostensibly an open one.

The Commission has drawn fire for appearing to capitulate to the interests of Internet providers rather than users. A court decision earlier this year threw out rules ensuring all data is given equal prioritization on networks were thrown out, leaving the field open, some argue, to manipulation of traffic by ISPs. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested in a blog post that a timely compromise might be better than another drawn-out court battle.

Gigi Sohn, Senior Counsel for External Affairs for the Chairman, began answering tweets tagged with #FCCNetNEutrality at 2 PM ET.

The Twitterverse was enthusiastic, but also merciless. Sohn was immediately assailed with questions as to why Wheeler wasn't doing this Q&A himself, why the proposals haven't been made public yet, and whether concerns voiced online even reach the ears of the Commission.

Sohn's replies were encouraging but diplomatic in tone; without specific proposals to discuss, she only assured people that their comments were welcome, the process is open, and that the FCC is dedicated to an open Internet. But she also emphasized that the draft proposal itself is more question than answer:

It's too late to take part, but the high level of engagement could spur the FCC into doing it again after the proposals have been made public. There's also a special email inbox for comments and questions on the open Internet and net neutrality issues in case you don't want to wait; as Sohn says, all comments are read by FCC staff.