The Federal Communications Commission has been calling on the public to provide comments on its controversial net neutrality proposal, and it said today that it would actually be extending the length of the comment period by several days to ensure that all interested parties are able to submit their remarks. The initial net neutrality comment period was supposed to end today, but the commission is now extending it until midnight on Friday, July 18th.
"Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic."
"Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System," FCC press secretary Kim Hart says in a statement. "Please be assured that the commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record."
The commission has had ongoing issues with its filing system. It's now about 17 years old, and it's struggled and crashed in the past when wide attention to an issue brings in a heavy number of users submitting comments. The FCC has set up an email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — that comments can be sent to as well, which is likely the easiest way to submit a remark right now. As of last Friday, the commission said that it had already received over 647,000 comments. That figure has shot up dramatically in the days since, now reaching 780,000.
Lawmakers are also making their opinions known. 12 US senators, led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), today delivered a letter to the FCC imploring the commission to reclassify broadband as a utility as a means to offer strong net neutrality protections, just as advocates have widely been pushing for. "Broadband is a more advanced technology than phone service, but in the 21st century performs the same essential function," they said. "Accordingly, it would be appropriate for the FCC to reclassify broadband to reflect the vital role the internet plays in carrying our most important information and our greatest ideas."
Over 100,000 replies filed in under a week
The FCC's proposal has had net neutrality advocates widely concerned since details of it first began to leak out in April. The goal of net neutrality is to have all data flowing over the internet treated equally, regardless of what that data is, who it comes from, or who it's going to. The new proposal, however, would allow some parties to create so-called "internet fast lanes," which could disadvantage parties that are unable to pay for them.
Once the proposal's comment period closes on Friday, there'll still be more than a month during which you can submit what's known as a "reply comment," which are technically meant to be replies to public comments filed during this initial phase. That means it'll still be some time before we see how the FCC takes the public's comments into account for the final copy of its proposal, but these ongoing issues make one thing increasingly clear: the public has taken an interest in net neutrality, and many aren't happy about where it's going.