And we have a few people to thank for fighting back:The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday pushed back to July 18 the first deadline to submit comments on the agency's proposed new Internet traffic rules after a surge in traffic overwhelmed its online filing system.
Companies, consumer advocates, lawmakers and citizens had sent nearly 680,000 comments on the FCC's proposed so-called net neutrality rules -- which guide how Internet service providers (ISPs) manage web traffic on their networks -- as the deadline for first comments approached on Tuesday.
For much of Tuesday, however, the database appeared to be down or unaccessible, which FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart attributed to an "overwhelming surge in traffic."
"Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record," she said, announcing a delay of the deadline to midnight on July 18.
After that, commenters will be able to reply to each other's initial submissions through Sept. 10.
The proposal has attracted one of the biggest responses in FCC's history, showcasing the complicated and intense nature of the debate launched after a federal court in January struck down the FCC's previous version of such rules.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that would ban ISPs from blocking users' access to websites or applications but would allow some "commercially reasonable" deals between content providers and ISPs to prioritize delivery of some traffic. - Reuters, 7/15/14
Senators Ed Markey (D. MA), Al Franken (D. MN) and Cory Booker (D. NJ) specifically have been three of the most vocal opponents of the FCC's proposed rules on net neutrality and have been fighting this good fight for a while now:A group of 13 senators urged Wheeler on Tuesday to adopt the Internet-as-utility strategy. Signing the letter were Democrats Ed Markey (Mass.), Al Franken (Minn.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Cory Booker (N.J.), and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) along with Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
“If the FCC allows big corporations to negotiate fast lane deals, the Internet will be sold to the highest bidder,” Sanders said at a news conference. Franken called Wheeler’s proposal almost “Orwellian.”
Two Democratic state attorneys general — Eric Schneiderman of New York and Lisa Madigan of Illinois — also waded into the debate Tuesday, saying in their own comment that the FCC should avoid fast lanes and treat the Internet like a utility.
The big telecommunications companies have a different take, with companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast arguing that applying telephone-style regulation to the Internet would chill investment and result in drawn-out litigation.
Title II reclassification not only is unnecessary to achieve the Commission’s policy objectives, but would affirmatively undermine those objectives by significantly deterring the ongoing investments necessary to deploy broadband further and support the Internet’s continuing evolution,” the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said in a comment filed with the commission Tuesday.
With the FCC’s portal down, some net neutrality advocates used the opportunity to turn delivery of comments into an event. Groups like Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Common Cause planned to submit their comments by hand to the FCC’s headquarters in Washington.
An alliance of musicians and songwriters also got into the act. Artists such Charles Bissell of The Wrens and REM backed the Title II approach. Smarting from radio consolidation, the music industry fears allowing fast lanes could become the new payola of the 21st century. - Politico, 7/15/14
Here's what the Senators pushed for:The lawmakers, led by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., submitted a letter directing the FCC to classify the providers under Title II of the Communications Act, the same law used to regulate telecommunications services. The senators said broadband provides an “essential function” comparable to telephone services, and they believed such a change would prevent discriminatory practices that would allow some content to be delivered faster than other content.
The letter also denounced paid prioritization, or the creation of Internet “fast lanes” that the FCC is considering implementing. The senators said such practices would leave small businesses in the “slow lane.”
“An open Internet has become the world’s most successful platform for innovation, job-creation and entrepreneurialism,” the senators wrote. “An open Internet enables freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas around the world.”
The letter is signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.).
Markey and a handful of the signers joined representatives from Etsy, Public Knowledge and Free Press on Tuesday morning to discuss net neutrality at a press conference.
The first FCC comment period was set to close at 9 p.m. PST Tuesday, but the FCC decided to extend the comment period to July 18 on Tuesday morning after an influx of comments crashed its site. The FCC had received more than 650,000 comments on its website as of Monday. - TechCrunch, 7/15/14
And here's a little more:In their letter, the liberal senators warn that Wheeler's proposal "could fundamentally alter the Internet as we know it."
The only way to enact effective net-neutrality rules that bar online discrimination is to use the agency's power under Title II, the senators write.
Although Democrats have long supported net neutrality, few have explicitly called for the FCC to reclassify the Internet under Title II. Thirty-seven House members of the Progressive Caucus signed a letter supporting Title II in May, but 20 Democrats signed a dueling letter opposing the option.
Republicans and major broadband providers have threatened a legal and political war with the FCC if it tries to reclassify the Internet.
Top Senate Republicans sent a letter to Wheeler in May, warning that "monopoly-era Title II regulations" would stifle investment and undermine his "ability to effectively lead the FCC." House Republican leaders fired off a similar letter the following day.
In a blog post Monday, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying group that represents Comcast and other broadband providers, urged the FCC to reject the "extreme voices" calling for reclassification.
Utility-style "common carrier" regulations would "deter ongoing investments and innovation" and would not even survive in court, the cable group warned.
Under Title II, the FCC has broad regulatory powers, including the ability to control prices and determine which customers a company has to serve. But the commission can also decide to waive any requirements under the provision. - National Journal, 7/15/14
Now the battle isn't over but these Senators helped buy us more time and make this a bigger issue. Markey, Franken and Booker are all up for re-election this year. If you would like to thank them, please do consider donating and getting involved with her campaign:Wheeler incited a firestorm in April when he unveiled his idea to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from selectively slowing or blocking access to websites before they were struck down by a federal court earlier this year.
His plan, critics said, would allow Internet providers to charge websites for “fast lane” access to their users, creating a tiered Internet where deep-pocketed companies can afford to reach users while others languish.
After facing backlash from Democrats at the commission and on Capitol Hill, Wheeler broadened his plan to more seriously consider other options, including reclassifying Internet providers.
In their letter Tuesday, the senators pushed Wheeler to reclassify.
“We must take steps to prevent broadband providers from creating Internet fast lanes for those who can pay, leaving others stuck in traffic,” the letter said.
“It would be appropriate to reclassify broadband to reflect the vital role the Internet plays in carrying our most important information and our greatest ideas.”
During a press conference unveiling the letter, the senators said reclassification — which is generally considered an uphill political battle — would create more certainty around the open Internet.
“If the FCC repeats history and again puts in place net neutrality rules on shaky legal grounds, then we will find ourselves right back in court,” Markey said.
“Strong net neutrality rules cannot be established under the current framework,” Schumer said, calling reclassification the “balanced and judicious way” to ensure net neutrality and pledging to back Wheeler politically if he reclassifies.
Strong net neutrality protections are needed to prevent an “almost Orwellian architecture where all information is basically controlled by corporations with deep pockets,” Franken said. - The Hill, 7/15/14