Carly Fiorina is no fan of the FCC’s recent net neutrality rules, suggesting that she’d advocate for different technology policies if elected president next November. But given what she said today during an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt, it’s unclear if she’s actually read them.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation between Fiorina and TechCrunch’s Sarah Lane:
Fiorina: One of the things I think government shouldn’t be doing is trying to regulate, in some bureaucracy, how innovation progresses in the technology industry. So I think it’s a terrible thing, for example, that the FCC just issued—without anyone commenting on it or anyone voting on it—400 pages of new regulations over the Internet. It’s not good, it’s not helpful.
Lane: What about all of the public comments that were taken in?
Fiorina: Well, the public comments came as the result of huge pressure from the public, because people said: ‘Wait, we have to be able to look at this.’ I don’t know, I don’t have a lot of confidence that the FCC took into account many of those public comments. Maybe they did, but I don’t see any evidence of it.”
Lane: So the fact that the volume is there doesn’t mean they were taken into consideration?
Fiorina: Not necessarily.
Lane: I think the public would be very disappointed to hear that.
Fiorina: But that’s the thing. It’s an example of a lack of transparency and accountability. Yeah, send in your comment, but what did we do with those comments? Nobody knows. Did we incorporate those comments? Nobody knows.
First, Fiorina suggested that the public only got to comment on the FCC rules because it agitated for the right to comment. This is simply untrue. The public got to comment on the FCC rules because that’s what the FCC—and most other federal agencies—does whenever it’s considering adopting or modifying major regulations. It’s standard operating procedure and even laid out on the FCC’s website.
Second, there was indeed a vote. Not of the American public—Fiorina must know that we don’t have federal referenda on policy—but of five FCC commissioners who were appointed by President Obama and approved by the U.S. Senate. It went 3-2.
Third, there were not actually 400 pages of regulation. Eighty of those pages were dissents from the two FCC commissioners who voted against the rules being adopted. Another seven pages were statements from the FCC commissioners who voted in favor. Then there were 31 pages of appendices. The main text is still a hefty 282 pages—much of it background rather than rules—that includes an extraordinary number of footnotes which often address… wait for it… comments!
Over and over again, the footnotes refer to specific comments and explain how they were incorporated into the decision-making process. There’s even references to third-party analysis of the comments, to give a sense of where most of the millions of commenters came down on the broader issues.
When Fiorina claims that “nobody knows” if the comments were reviewed, that’s only possible if no one actually read the rules. Or maybe Fiorina is mistaking “nobody” for herself.