FCC Inundated With Net Neutrality Comments

     (CN) – More than 1 million people filed a comment with the Federal Communications Commission on how to preserve an open Internet as the first period to do so ended Friday.
     Originally a strong supporter of net neutrality, the FCC had told the D.C. Circuit that without FCC regulation “[a] service provider could prevent an end user from accessing Netflix, or the New York Times, or even this court’s own website, unless the website paid the provider to allow customer access.”
     This stance changed, however, after the D.C. Circuit ruled in January that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lacks the authority to regulate broadband Internet companies because the agency had not classified broadband providers as “common carriers” like a phone company or other utility, subject to telecommunications regulations. Instead, it called them “information services.”
     The FCC then proposed to let companies pay Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon to create a “fast lane” for their content.
     With public outcry over the FCC’s apparent abandonment of its commitment to net neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed to consider revising proposed rules.
     The FCC launched the rulemaking period in May and requested public comment about applying Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Title II of the Communications Act.
     By 4 p.m. on Friday, the agency had received 1,062,000 public comments. The period remained open until midnight. This figure does not individually count signatures on petitions collected by net-neutrality activists, which may contain thousands of names.
     The original deadline was Tuesday, but a flood of last-minute comments caused its website to break down, and the agency to extend the deadline three days.
     Netflix, a strong proponent of net neutrality, told the FCC: “The Internet is at a crossroads. Down one road – a road defined by the Commission’s failure to put in place meaningful open Internet rules – is an Internet that looks more like cable TV, one characterized by legalized discrimination, carriage disputes, gamesmanship, and content blackouts which harms consumers. Down another road is a scalable, more affordable, and open Internet built on strong network neutrality rules and a policy of settlement-free interconnection to last mile ISP [Internet service provider] network.”
     On the other side, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s comment said, “Title II reclassification not only is unnecessary to achieve the commission’s policy objectives, but would affirmatively undermine those objectives by significantly deterring the ongoing investments necessary to deploy broadband further and support the Internet’s continuing evolution.”
     FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement Friday, “We asked the public a fundamental question: ‘What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?’ We are grateful so many Americans have answered our call. Our work is just beginning as we review the more than one million comments we have received.”
     Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” holds the record for FCC comments at 1.4 million.
     The FCC will take reply comments from the industry, and general comments from the public until Sept. 10, 2014.

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