The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal for a controversial set of new net neutrality rules this morning that advocates say could undermine the very principals that they set out to support by introducing so-called "fast lanes" to the internet. The rules aren't set in stone just yet, however: as the FCC has been reiterating for the past month, what it was voting to approve today was only a draft, and public comments received over the coming weeks will factor into what the final rules look like. The commission is even running a particularly long commenting period this time around given the outcry over and importance of the proposal.
Comment period runs through September 10thThat public comment period begins today and will run for 60 days, until July 27th, at which point a second phase of commenting will open up. That second phase will run for 57 days beyond that, until September 10th, and is meant to allow the public to reply to comments that the FCC received during the first phase. Traditionally, those interested in making a short comment would have to do so here, on proceeding number 14-28, and longer entries would have to be included as attachments through this larger form. But given the amount of interest the FCC is expecting, it's also set up an email address, email@example.com, where it's accepting comments too in order to make the whole process a bit easier. Regardless of the method, all comments are made publicly. Comments on the proposal have technically been rolling in for months now, but the initial public comment period properly begins today.
In particular, the commission is seeking comment on its controversial new standard for allowing ISPs to create a fast lane. Companies will be allowed to create fast lanes so long as they do so in a "commercially reasonable" manner, but what exactly defines a commercially reasonable manner isn't clear yet and, theoretically, will be influenced by citizens' comments. Though it would mean a big change from the proposal, the commission is also asking whether fast lanes should simply be banned outright.
Beyond that, the FCC is seeking comment on the legal grounds that it can use to keep the internet open. While this proposal uses what's known as "Section 706," neutrality advocates want to see the commission using "Title II," which would impose significantly more regulations on ISPs. Switching to Title II would dramatically alter the final rules, should the FCC choose to change the legal authority that it's using, but it's a question that it's curious about nonetheless — and that's a glimmer of hope for neutrality advocates.