With more than 20 million comments, the FCC’s inaptly named “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal to gut net neutrality rules as we know them, is by far the most controversial measure the agency has ever taken, or rather attempted to take. Hardly a company or trade group has failed to make its opinion known in one form or another, and millions of individuals have weighed in as well. If you haven’t yet, now is your last chance.
That last chance would have been two weeks ago but for a motion by several advocacy organizations to extend it, which the FCC granted in part. I put together basic instructions on how to submit a comment here; there are also plenty of sites that offer forms that submit on your behalf should you prefer that. You just need to do it before midnight Eastern time tonight.
As many (including I) have argued over the past months, the FCC’s proposal is wrong in principle, wrong in implementation, and otherwise just plain wrong. While there is plenty of room for debate on how net neutrality should be carried out and the FCC’s role in it, “Restoring Internet Freedom” is a politically motivated, industry-underwritten, and poorly argued rush job that fails to consider numerous factors in the complex industry and culture it attempts to deregulate.
The commenting process has itself been controversial too.
First, the FCC said it had been attacked shortly after the proposal went live, taking the comment system down — but it refuses to provide details of the attack or its countermeasures, even under direct questioning from Congress (an independent inquiry has been called for).
Second, there has been no official word on how the agency will handle the millions of fraudulent comments submitted to the record — on both sides of the argument. Duplicates, bot-generated comments, jokes and insults, etc are everywhere in the filing system. Shouldn’t they be removed or at least officially addressed?
Third, the FCC has indicated that it does not need or intend to factor this historic public response into its decision whether to adopt the new rule (which really just amounts to undoing the adoption of the landmark 2015 rule). The agency is independent and is not required to reflect public opinion in its rulemaking, but come on. Millions of people and practically every major tech company — not to mention Members of Congress and other officials — have expressed serious objections to the proposal. To ignore them all outright is not just foolish, it’s un-American.
There’s a good chance that all our protests will merely be so much sound and fury, signifying nothing, and the FCC — currently ruled by a 3-2 majority in favor of the rule — will adopt the rule as if they never heard a peep against it.
Nevertheless I think it is important to make your voice heard, even — indeed, especially — if it’s the FCC’s official position that your voice doesn’t matter.