FCC Extends Neutrality Comment Deadline After Site Crashes

Commenters deluged the Federal Communications Commission with written opinions about broadband regulations, crashing the agency's Web site and forcing it to extend the comment deadline until Friday.

Around 700,000 people and organizations submitted comments before the FCC's system went down.

There's a reason why so many people feel compelled to weigh in: For the first time, the FCC is considering enacting a rule that would explicitly allow broadband providers to discriminate against content providers.

In April, Chairman Tom Wheeler put forward a controversial proposal that would allow providers to enter into “commercially reasonable” agreements to speed up traffic for companies willing to pay extra. The FCC previously deregulated broadband service, but never before told wireline providers outright that they were free to enter into pay-for-play deals.

Many commenters are responding to Wheeler's proposal by pointing out that paid fast lanes would fundamentally change the nature of the Internet by making it harder for small companies, start-ups, activists and non profits to reach their audience.

Digital rights advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press, companies like Etsy and Netflix, and organizations like the Internet Association have spent the last three months rallying opposition to Wheeler's planned fast lanes.

Many of the most vocal net neutrality supporters say the FCC should not only abandon Wheeler's proposal, but also reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications” service, which would require providers to follow the same common carrier rules as telephone companies.

Among those pushing for reclassification are a group of 12 senators: Ed Markey (D-Mass.,), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.).

“Broadband is a more advanced technology than phone service, but in the 21st century it performs the same essential function,” the lawmakers write in a letter sent to the FCC today.

“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 states. “We need to prohibit paid prioritization, which would leave start-ups and small businesses to suffer in a new Internet slow lane, harming our economy and job growth.”

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