FCC gets record num­ber of Net Neu­tral­ity com­ments

Nearly 22 mil­lion are logged, but will it mat­ter in long run?

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jef­fer­son Graham

Nearly 22 mil­lion com­ments were logged by the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion weigh­ing in on the is­sue of Net Neu­tral­ity — but it prob­a­bly won’t make a dif­fer­ence.

Wed­nes­day was the fi­nal day con­sumers could voice their opin­ion to the agency on the changes to Net Neu­tral­ity rules, which the cur­rent chair­man has said he wanted to nix.

The rules were put into ef­fect dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2015 to pre­vent In­ter­net providers from ad­just­ing the speeds of big-time users — of throt­tling sites such as Net­flix and Hulu. But un­der the Trump pres­i­dency, the cur­rent FCC chair­man seeks to abol­ish the rules, in an era of dereg­u­la­tion.

For the past months, con­sumers have been urged to speak out to the agency — egged on by folks such as HBO’s John Oliver, who made it a per­sonal cru­sade.

Re­searcher Em­prata stud­ied

“We will con­tinue to not block, throt­tle or dis­crim­i­nate against law­ful con­tent, no mat­ter what the FCC does.”

In­ter­net giant Com­cast, in a state­ment

the com­ments on be­half of the in­dus­try and said 60% were against re­peal and that most of the let­ters were form-gen­er­ated — as in com­puter gen­er­ated bots. It added that more than 7 mil­lion of the com­ments came from tem­po­rary (fake) email ad­dresses.

In re­sponse, Evan Greer, the cam­paign director for Fight for the Fu­ture, which has been cam­paign­ing to keep the cur­rent rules, said the Em­prata study proved her point. “They are get­ting trounced when it comes to public opin­ion, and peo­ple from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum over­whelm­ingly agree that they don’t want their ISPs to have con­trol over what they can see and do on the In­ter­net.”

The net re­sult of all those com­ments, Greer sug­gests, shows that peo­ple care deeply about the In­ter­net, “and don’t want com­pa­nies like Com­cast, Ver­i­zon and AT&T to con­trol what we can see and do on­line. The public record mat­ters, re­gard­less of what the FCC de­cides to do, as the agency will have to de­fend its de­ci­sions in court.”

That’s where the is­sue is ex­pected to go next, as well as Con- gress, which has a hear­ing set for next week on the is­sue.

Mean­while, de­spite the heated rhetoric, In­ter­net providers say they don’t want to be reg­u­lated — and in­sist they won’t throt­tle your In­ter­net.

“We will con­tinue to not block, throt­tle or dis­crim­i­nate against law­ful con­tent, no mat­ter what the FCC does,” In­ter­net giant Com­cast said in a state­ment.

Cur­rent FCC chair­man Ajit Pai is a Repub­li­can who voted against the rules as a com­mis­sioner and was named chair­man by Trump ear­lier this year. He has said the reg­u­la­tions are heavy-handed, have re­duced in­vest­ment in net­work ex­pan­sion and slowed con­sumer ac­cess to faster broad­band con­nec­tions.

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