A congressional hearing on net neutrality that was slated for September 7 isn’t happening after several major tech companies did not accept invitations for their CEOs to testify. Executives from Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Verizon were invited to address the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but — even after the committee extended the deadline to wait for their responses — apparently no one agreed to go.
Many tech companies rallied in support of net neutrality during an internet-wide day of action last month, but executives were less thrilled about appearing before the committee, Recode reported in July. A spokesperson for the committee tells Gizmodo that the hearing has now been postponed and there are no specific plans to reschedule it.
The Federal Communications Commission has been pushing for a rollback of Obama-era net neutrality protections that prevent internet service providers from selectively throttling data. But even though the FCC has been flooded with public comments in support of those protections, chairman Ajit Pai has remained steadfast in his stance that the rollback is necessary. Assuming the FCCs proceeds as expected and dismantles existing net neutrality rules, both sides of the debate are expected to lobby congress to establish new net neutrality laws — hence, the purpose of the September 7 hearing, to kickstart a public debate.
The committee spokesperson told Gizmodo that its members are still exploring legislative solutions for net neutrality.
“As negotiations progress on a permanent solution for net neutrality that ensures a free and open internet, the committee will postpone the original hearing in order to allow talks between stakeholders to continue,” said the Committee on Energy and Commerce spokesperson.
In a July post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was “open to working with members of Congress and anyone else” to protect net neutrality. It’s possible that meaningful collaboration is happening behind the scenes — the committee spokesperson told Gizmodo that the companies invited by the committee are participating in backchannel discussions — but it’s annoying that the conversation isn’t happening in a public hearing next week, especially given the overwhelming public interest. Ultimately the result is less transparency for the millions of citizens who’ve followed the net neutrality debate, all because the committee only wanted to speak to CEOs, and the CEOs, perhaps fearing the outcome of a public grilling, refused suck it up and testify.