The FCC published its proposal to undo the 2015 net neutrality rules today, meaning the public is once again able to go and comment on it.
An early draft of the proposal was published last month. Comments were accepted during the following weeks — as many discovered thanks to John Oliver — but the commission put commenting on pause shortly before its vote. The vote happened last week, the proposal passed, and now we’re getting an updated draft and the ability to comment again.
Very little has changed between what was in the proposal a month ago and what’s in it today. The document is still a vague, open-ended mess that says very little while asking a ton of questions, giving the commission leeway to do more-or-less whatever it wants when the commenting period closes in a few months.
To sum up in a bit more detail: the proposal, which has the ludicrous title “Restoring Internet Freedom,” says the FCC would like to remove the legal authority (Title II) used to implement net neutrality; it then goes on to ask about what, if any, net neutrality rules should replace the ones that are forced out the door once their legal backing is gone. The commission includes quite a few asides in the text to indicate just how skeptical it is that rules are need at all.
The additions in the past month largely relate to a recent court decision not to rehear a legal challenge to Title II. That decision let stand an earlier ruling that the Title II designation was permissible, though it did so in part because the judges knew the FCC was about to change the classification again anyway. The proposal ignores that , thus far, the Title II designation has been found legal and instead cites from dissenting opinions to poke more theoretical holes in the case for net neutrality.
Now that the proposal has been published, the public comment period has opened up again. The first round of comments is due before July 17th. After that, a second commenting round will be open until August 16th, during which the public is expected to reply to comments filed during the first round of filings.
Commenting takes a few steps, but it’s not particularly challenging. Here’s what to do:
First, go to this site — it’s the FCC’s page for filings related to the Restoring Internet Freedom proposal.
Then, click on “Express” in the box on the left of the page. (The other option, “New Filing,” does basically the same thing but presents you with a bunch of additional choices that don’t need to be filled out.)
From there, you’re pretty much good to go. You’ll notice that “17-108” has been filled into the very top box on the page, where it says “proceedings” — leave that there, it’s what associates your comment with the right proposal.
The rest of the page is all common sense: you’ll need to enter your name and address, and below that is space for your comment. Be aware that this information will be publicly posted on the FCC’s website once it’s submitted.
The FCC is obligated to listen to the comments it receives and to act in the public interest. But with that being said, the FCC obviously has to pick a side eventually — and the commission has already been tempering expectations by noting that quantity is less important than quality when it comes to net neutrality arguments.
Still, there’s a long road ahead for this proposal. There’ll be another vote after the months of commenting, and there’ll certainly be lawsuits that follow. The FCC needs a public record that reflects the route it ends up choosing, so the millions of comments it receives will in some way or another come into play. And comments will be in the millions: the commission has already received 2.59 million responses.