FCC gets more than 10 million comments on net neutrality

A record has been set in an FCC proceeding, as millions make their voices heard in proposal to roll back net neutrality regulations.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to reboot the rules governing the internet. But critics say that will just destroy the regulations protecting net neutrality.


The public is fired up about net neutrality. 

More than 10 million comments have been filed at the Federal Communications Commission on a proposal to roll back  net neutrality regulations.  That's more than twice as many comments as were filed two years ago when the FCC was considering the current rules.

The Republican-led FCC introduced a proposal in May to roll back the 2015 rules, and the first public comment period on the proposal ended Monday. A rebuttal period is now underway to allow for additional comments until August 16.

Roughly 2 million of those comments were filed last week, when thousands of activists, individuals and tech companies participated in an online protest to educate people about the benefits of net neutrality, according to Fight for the Future, one of the organizers of the campaign.

The flood of comments reflects the positive sentiment that most Americans have toward the existing rules, which ensures broadband companies can't block or slow-down your access to the internet or charge companies a fee to deliver service faster to customers.

But the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai appears dead set on going forward with the proposal. He and Commissioner Michael O'Rielly have long been opposed to the 2015 rules, calling them antiquated and stifling to business investment. They've both repeatedly stated their intent to dismantle them.

Big tech companies including Amazon, Google and Netflix say that 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.

Some of these companies like Mozilla filed comments in the proceeding while many signed on to a filing from the Internet Association, a lobbying group that counts Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Netflix as members. The letter to the FCC called for "strong and enforceable net neutrality rules … that ban blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and other discriminatory practices."

AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and other internet service providers also filed comments asking the FCC to repeal the rules. These companies say they support an open internet but don't agree with the legal basis the FCC used to form the rules. The FCC reclassified broadband as a utility-like service subjecting broadband to the same rules governing the old telephone network. Cable and phone companies say applying these outdated regulations on internet service providers hurts investment, because they fear that the government may try to regulate rates.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, said in its filing that regardless of whether the FCC reverses its rules, it remains "committed to the core tenets of a free and open Internet."  

The issue has been heating up. Players on both sides of the political aisles are claiming phony comments have been filed in the proceeding.  Pro-net neutrality regulation supporters say they've counted at least 450,000 fake anti-net neutrality comments. And those looking to overturn the rules also claim that there are more than 550,000 fake comments supporting the existing rules.

Chairman Pai said Wednesday during a Senate Commerce confirmation hearing that he "will make a full and fair review of the record." Pai's five-year term expires this year. President Donald Trump has renominated Pai, as well as Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr, to fill out the five-member commission. Rosenworcel served as a commissioner from 2102 to 2016, but her renomination was held up when Republicans refused to reconfirm her before her term ended in January. Carr currently serves as the FCC general counsel advising Pai's office.

Once those nominations are confirmed by the Senate, the FCC will still be controlled by Republicans with three votes to two votes from Democrats. 

Intolerance on the Internet: Online abuse is as old as the internet and it's only getting worse. It exacts a very real toll.  

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