The controversy over the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed net neutrality regulations continues, with so many public comments filed that the agency’s Web site crashed.
More than one million comments have already been filed about the proposal, some of which advocate “fast lanes” that allow Internet service providers to afford certain companies preferential treatment by paying for faster service.
The new proposal is the FCC’s latest attempt at net neutrality regulations after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an earlier iteration in January. In response, the agency drafted the new “fast lanes” proposal and requested public comment.
The agency may have gotten more than it bargained for.
Millions of comments later, the FCC’s site crashed on the last day of the comment period, causing the agency to extend the deadline for another week.
To date, the comments have tipped the scales in favor of network neutrality but opposed to fast lanes. Entities ranging from companies such as Etsy, digital rights advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and trade groups such as the Internet Association, which includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Twitter as members, have all weighed in with their preferences.
“Charging for enhanced or prioritized access – essentially, charging to discriminate against or degrade competing content – undermines the Internet’s level playing field,” the Internet Association wrote. “It shifts the balance from the consumers’ freedom of choice to the broadband Internet access providers’ gatekeeping decisions.”
Other commenters have similarly argued that the FCC should abandon the current proposal but additionally advocated for the agency to reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service,” which would then subject it to common carrier rules.
A group of senators – including high-profile lawmakers such as Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – banded together to advance this position. “Broadband is a more advanced technology than phone service, but in the 21st century it performs the same essential function,” the senators wrote. “Consumers and businesses cannot live without this vital connection to each other and to the world around them. 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 greatest ideas.”
Some commenters backed the FCC proposal, with AT&T noting that “[i]n no other area of the economy does the government ban voluntary market transactions (here, for example, quality-of-service enhancements) specifically in order to prevent those with superior resources from offering better services to their own customers.”
To read the comments filed on the FCC’s proposal, click here.
Why it matters: The FCC’s continuing attempts to provide an acceptable net neutrality solution indicate its desire to reach an accord that will satisfy these divergent groups. Expect more proposed “accommodations” in the future.