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On September 10, another protest was organized to fight the FCC open Internet proposal. The Internet Slowdown attracted 77 major websites advocating for true net neutrality. The protest was a huge success, adding 800,000 new comments to battle the FCC proposal.
FCC Open Internet Proposal
The FCC’s standing proposal on net neutrality is in reality a huge blow to net neutrality. It would permit ISPs like Comcast to force services like Netflix to pay more for content to be delivered. If they don’t pay, these services will be relegated to slow lanes that cannot deliver content properly. The FCC does not consider these to be slow lanes although the result would be the same.
ISPs do not want the FCC to review their open Internet proposal. It is very beneficial to them as it is. These big companies who stand to profit have been doing their own lobbying. They are fighting hard on other fronts as well to stop regulation by the FCC. They want people to stay misinformed about what will happen if they get permission to discriminate against different types of Internet traffic.
The Internet Slowdown
The Internet Slowdown was an effort to attract attention to the protest to preserve net neutrality and a truly open Internet. The websites who participated uploaded a “Loading” Gif to simulate the slow speeds that many websites would suffer under the current proposal. The websites did not really slow down on the day of the protest. They just wanted to call people’s attention to the real possibility that many of their favorite sites could become extremely slow. The Gif that they uploaded linked to the Internet Slowdown page on https://www.battleforthenet.com/. From this page, they could get accurate information about net neutrality issues. People could also easily submit their comments about the issues to the FCC or to call Congress about it. Visitors to the site were also encouraged to sign a letter that supports true net neutrality. It is believed that many people do not know how to contact the FCC because ISPs are not providing this information. The Internet Slowdown helped many Internet users get their comments logged before the deadline.
FCC Comment Period
On May 15th this year, the FCC opened their website to comments on the proposed net neutrality rules. Comments can also be submitted via their email, firstname.lastname@example.org. They released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the Open Internet Rules proposal, called Proceeding 14-28. The public was invited to comment on several aspects of the proposal. These included banning the prioritization of Internet traffic, applying Open Internet rules to both fixed and mobile broadband services, and including broadband Internet under the same rules as telecommunications services, Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The ensuing campaigns brought a lot of attention to the issues, and real net neutrality has gotten a lot of support since then. Just last week, Nancy Pelosi, California House Democratic Leader, publicly announced her support for broadband reclassification.
Before the Internet Slowdown, the FCC website crashed because of the flood of comments they received from previous awareness campaigns. By July 16, the deadline for submission of comments, there were about 677,000 comments filed regarding net neutrality. The deadline was extended after firm calls for more time to make the public aware of the gravity of the issues. By the new deadline, midnight of July 18, there were 1,067,779 comments filed. 446,843 came via the FCC website’s Electronic Comment Filing System while 620,936 came in via email.
The FCC then set a reply period initially to end on September 10th, the day of the Internet Slowdown. This reply period was also extended until the 15th to allow for all comments to enter the system. This is partly due to the fact that the comment system of the FCC website crashed again after hundreds of thousands of comments were sent on the 10th. Battleforthenet.com reported that they had sent over 740,000 comments on behalf of visitors but the FCC was not able to log them all. The FCC website could not handle the load, according to Tiffaniy Cheng of Fight for the Future, so they held the comments that they had until the FCC could process them.
The record set for most comments submitted on an issue prior to the Internet Slowdown is about two million. If the 740,000 unlogged comments from Battleforthenet.com are added to the existing 1,067,779, the campaign totals already come close to two million with days still left for comment submission. The FCC also reported that they expect over a million comments to come in via email. The Sunlight Foundation has already analyzed 800,000 comments, and they report that so far less than one percent of the comments opposed net neutrality.