Good news, everybody who meant to share their feelings about the latest net neutrality proposal from the feds, but just never found the time!
The 700,000-plus comments pouring in from your fellow lollygaggers and sundry netizens who perhaps had more stuff to say crashed the FCC’s quaint old-timey infrastructure, and now the deadline’s been extended.
“Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic in our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Filing System,” the FCC said in a statement.
— David Hamilton (@david_hamilton) May 15, 2014
Due to these technical difficulties beyond the FCC’s control, you now have through midnight, Friday, July 18, to share your opinions on this latest proposal.
The Public Is Speaking, Whether Coherently Or Not
This inadvertent distributed denial-of-service attack on the FCC is an excellent opportunity for everyone to bone up on the facts. Because here’s the thing. That hilariously inaccurate net-neutrality bit from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that went viral and likely drove a lot of people to chime in (and crash the FCC) at the last minute, misses plenty.
Oliver quipped that the Internet “isn’t broken” and that the FCC is “currently taking steps to fix that.” He then busts out the bottom line on net neutrality, the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by both governments and providers. Nothing is blocked, everything is delivered at the same Internet speed.
Net neutrality however, is a concept, not an enforceable law. And there’s no shortage of examples on how is been violated right here, in North America. Here are some greatest hits:
• Telus, a Canadian ISP, blocked access to a site used by the Telecommunications Workers Union during a strike in 2005.
• AT&T deleted singer Eddy Vedder’s negative remarks about then-president George W. Bush during a Pearl Jam concert webcast in 2007.
• That same year, Comcast was busted for blocking traffic from BitTorrent and other file-sharing applications.
Currently, Netflix remains a bone of contention with providers such as Verizon and Comcast who want to charge web services extra for ferrying the high bandwidth content.
Everything isn’t unicorns and rainbows on the Internet, but for the government. That said, there’s plenty wrong with this latest proposal, which may prevent providers from blocking some traffic, while allowing them to strike big money deals for faster delivery with the companies that have money to spare. Think: Disney, Google, Amazon, etc. This creates a very unlevel playing field from smaller companies and startups who can’t afford to pay for the Internet fast lane.
In January, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s last attempt at net neutrality, the “Open Internet Order” that aimed to prevent ISPs from providing some traffic faster than others. According to the court, the FCC did not have the authority to enforce such rules under its current regulatory structure.
Given the current attention focused on the latest attempt at legislating net neutrality, it’s likely this version won’t pass, either. The opposing parties—ISPs and Internet media providers—have millions of dollars, and plenty of lobbyists, in this fight.
But as humorist Finley Peter Dunne is quoted as saying in 1901, “The Supreme Court follows the election returns.” In this case, the FCC might be wise to follow the public interest that crashed its website.