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Net Neutrality Comments Flood FCC, Crashing Site as Deadline Extended

Initial comments will now be accepted through midnight Friday.


The Federal Communications Commission extended a deadline for comments on the agency’s controversial fast-lane net neutrality proposal, after its servers couldn’t keep up with the volume of comments flooding in Tuesday and crashed intermittently.

Companies and consumers now have until midnight Friday to file a comment or shoot an email to to weigh in on the proposal, which would prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet sites, but would allow them to charge content companies for prioritized, fast-lane service to subscribers. (Anyone who wants to respond to initial comments filed with the FCC has until September to file additional comments.)

As of yesterday, the FCC had received more than 677,000 comments on its net neutrality proposal, a senior agency official said during a Twitter chat at the company’s New York offices. That’s not a record by FCC standards — the agency got 1.4 million comments about Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” Super Bowl performance — but it’s certainly more than the agency usually gets.

The agency also released some data Tuesday on the volume of comments that have flowed in since this spring, when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler first unveiled his proposal. As you can see from one FCC chart, comedian John Oliver’s viral video on net neutrality had a bit of an impact on awareness of the issue and the volume of comments:

The comments are breaking along familiar lines, with tech startups advocating the FCC re-regulate Internet lines and owners of broadband lines pushing back against that suggestion. One company that isn’t filing comments today: Google. A spokeswoman for the search giant said Tuesday that Google wouldn’t file separate comments but that its position was represented by a filing made Monday by the Internet Association, a trade group that represents Google, Facebook, Netflix, Microsoft, Twitter and other Internet companies.

The Internet Association said Wheeler’s fast-lane plan was a bad idea but the group dodged the issue of re-regulation of Internet lines under Title II of the Communications Act, saying the agency should implement “light-touch rules.” The group did say that net neutrality rules should apply to both wired and wireless Internet networks, something Google gave up on four years ago when it was a far more active participant in the net neutrality debate.

Wheeler was in New York Monday to talk with tech startups in similar meetings to those held a few weeks ago in San Francisco.

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