After Users Swamp Its Website, The FCC Extends The Net Neutrality Comment Period To Friday

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The FCC is giving the public more time to weigh in on its proposed net neutrality rules.

Today, following what it called an “overwhelming surge in traffic” to its website, the FCC has decided to extend the commenting deadline for the first period to Friday of this week.

As TechCrunch noted earlier today, the FCC’s website website has been experiencing uptime issues, leaving our own Matt Burns to note that “‘[c]learly this government agency, with its archaic, non-functional website, should be in charge of the future of the Internet.”

Snark aside, it’s good of the FCC to do this. The net neutrality debate has sparked widespread controversy. The current discussion is a decent barometer for how the public values their Internet connections.

It isn’t clear whether the extension will impact the later pieces of the formerly announced net neutrality notice of proposed rule-making timeframe. I’ve asked the FCC to clarify.

What has caused the surge in interest in net neutrality, a technical issue that few understood before it recently shot back into the news cycle? The FCC has proposed, under certain constraints, that content companies and ISPs should be able to come to “commercially reasonable” agreements for “paid prioritization” of selected Internet traffic. Proponents of the plan like to carp that it could be useful for emergency services and the like to have special access.

Detractors fear that allowing for paid prioritization of the content of monied companies will bifurcate the Internet into fast and slow lanes. The usual counter to that idea is that the FCC wouldn’t allow for ISPs to slow traffic, thus guaranteeing a basic level of service that will allow for a fair network. That giggle you just felt inside is the attempt of the FCC to ascribe a normative positive moral bent to profit-seeking entities that have a direct financial motive to behave badly in this case.

The issue has crested into the public domain due to a steady thump of media coverage, and a shout-out from comedian John Oliver that brought net neutrality out from the nerd caves and into the domestic fare.

So, if you were planning on saying your piece, this week is a pretty decent time to do so.

Update: 

The FCC’s comment count on net neutrality reached 780,000. FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart commented on the FCC’s decision to extend the deadline.

“Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS),” she said. “Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record.”

The FCC has requested funding from Congress to modernize its website in the budget for fiscal year 2015.

Cat Zakrzewski contributed to this report. 

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