The deadline to voice your concern over the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to unwind net neutrality rules is fast approaching. The period for public comments ends at midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday.
Over 21.8 million comments have been filed with the agency on its “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal. That’s more than five times the number of comments filed before the FCC passed its 2015 rules protecting the open internet. Supporters of the plan to dismantle the rules have pointed out that many of the comments made this time around have been from spam bots and are form letters. Still, net neutrality remains a hot-button issue.
The Republican-led FCC introduced a proposal in May to roll back the 2015 rules, which ensure big broadband companies can’t block or slow down broadband access or charge companies fees to reach consumers more quickly over their networks. The first public comment period on the proposal ended July 17. A rebuttal period was supposed to end Aug. 16, but the FCC extended the deadline by two weeks to Aug. 30. Net neutrality advocates had requested the agency extend the deadline by eight weeks.
Net neutrality supporters, including big tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Netflix, say rolling back the rules will give large internet providers too much control over the content people access online. And they fear that without net neutrality rules, it’ll be harder for smaller companies to enter the market in the future.
But opponents of the rules, such as big broadband companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, say the regulations are based on outdated rules meant for the old telephone network. They fear that overseers could use this legal standing to regulate prices. As a result, they say, broadband companies are less likely to invest in networks.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who voted against the rules when he was a commissioner in 2015, appears dead set on going forward with the proposal. Last month, he told reporters at a press conference that the number of comments in favor of or against net neutrality rules “is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record.”
Pai has not said when the FCC will make a final decision on adopting its proposal to cut existing net neutrality rules, but it could happen before the end of this year, or early next year.