PPF Blog

The Importance of Accurate Headlines on Incomplete FCC Data

The net neutrality battle is as massive as anything happening in tech-regulation now, and recently the coalition of public-interest groups has been gathering much-needed momentum for real Title II reclassification. Historical stakes.

That’s why, with our sibling non-profit Fight For the Future, I’m critical of the Sunlight Foundation’s blog post from Tuesday afternoon, headline: “One group dominates the second round of net neutrality comments.” Sunlight stood by that summary yesterday afternoon. Fight For the Future responded in detail yesterday evening – press release – see also detailed comment from Tiffiniy Cheng.

PPF joins Fight For the Future and others in Battle for the Net coalition in calling for the following :

1. Sunlight to correct the headline of its blog post – yes, this headline really matters in the political game, it’s being used to inaccurately portray the demonstrated 99% public support (Sunlight’s own number from Sept. comment round) for Title II. Sunlight’s headline could & should have been, “FCC Admits Releasing Incomplete Data On Net Neutrality Public Comments” – and explored the challenges of comprehensively analyzing 60% of total data up-front, instead of promoting the Koch-sponsored anti-net-neutrality comments in what seems a more “hot take” style.

2. The crucial need is complete data from the FCC, we can agree – Sunlight Labs should work with Fight For the Future to aggressively obtain full source data and fully-transparent methodology from the FCC before characterizing a public comment round on this important topic. A flawed methodology is contributing to telco fog around the Beltway press and national discourse.

The foundational evidence for these corrections is cited atop recent FFtF press release: “The FCC has now acknowledged to Fight for the Future in an email that there is a discrepancy in their data and they dropped at least 244,881 pro-net neutrality comments.”

Sunlight stands by its original claim that its analysis of 1.6m bulk comments is “reasonably representative”. I expect Sunlight will adhere to its own values of transparency & data-driven analysis and disclose its methodology for this claim, when up to 500k comments are contested as missing. How can Sunlight characterize as valid-across-1.6m comments when they’re looking at just 60% of the overall data set the FCC acknowledged receiving, with a distribution of anti-net-neutrality sentiment so staggeringly different than the 40% FCC threw out and Sunlight won’t wait to examine?

Andrew & Bob & Sunlight folks, can you please share more details of why your process – “We spent enough time with these files that we’re reasonably sure that the FCC’s comment counts are incorrect and that our analysis is reasonably representative of what’s there” –  supports a headline summary, “One group dominates…” ? I’d encourage Sunlight, of all groups, not to willingly accept incomplete agency data as an accurate picture of the data as a whole or of genuine public opinion. This matters so much not just for Beltway political framing, in this tremendous battle against the lobbyists of telco monopolists, but also because of the dedicated organizing work of Fight For the Future in motivating hundreds of thousands of real Internet users to participate in public comment – it is truly bizarre to see the Koch Brothers’ play “dominating” the headline-war in this instance.

Contact: Evan Greer, Fight for the Future
Phone: 978-852-6457
Email: press@fightforthefuture.org

David Moore, PPF, david@ppolitics.org

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