Today is last day to submit comments on FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality

If you still want to speak out for or against the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to kill neutrality, there are only a few more hours left before the public comment deadline.

At 9 p.m. Pacific time, the three-month comment period for the proposal titled “Restoring Internet Freedom” will close. Already, nearly 22 million comments have been submitted electronically, by far the most commented-on FCC proposal in the agency’s history, after a massive public awareness campaign organized by tech companies and public advocacy groups.

Net neutrality is a longstanding digital principle that internet service providers should treat all web traffic equally and fairly. This means providers cannot prefer one website or service over the other by granting unequal loading speeds or by blocking or slowing content. 

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The Republican-led FCC proposed “Restoring Internet Freedom” to roll back Obama-era regulations, which treat internet service providers like public utilities and subjected to them tougher regulations.

In July, tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon — and, surprisingly, internet providers such as AT&T and Comcast — spoke out against the proposal in a “Day of Action” protest. On Wednesday, the Internet Association, a trade group representing 40 of the biggest tech companies in the United States, filed its own comment opposing the rollback proposal.

“Americans overwhelmingly support strong, enforceable net neutrality rules at the FCC,” said Internet Association President Michael Beckerman. “There is simply no reasonable justification for repealing the net neutrality protections currently on the books. The record fails to show any compelling evidence that the 2015 Open Internet Order has harmed the internet ecosystem, either through reduced investment or some other means.”

Local Bay Area government shared Beckerman’s sentiment. On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on a resolution supporting net neutrality. 

“Especially here in Silicon Valley, the internet is a driving force behind our economy,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian, who introduced the resolution. “An open internet is key to the high-tech world we’ve built, and it’s up to us to help protect it.”

After the deadline close, the FCC commissioners will deliberate on the proposal with public comments in mind.

In July, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai brushed off the volume of comments. “The raw number is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record,” Pai said at a press conference.

Since the comment period began and became central in pro-net neutrality movements, many from both sides of the debate questioned the authenticity of the comments. A recent report from the Washington-based analytics firm Emprata dove into the data and found mixed answers about which side Americans genuinely support.

The report found a vast majority of those opposing the FCC proposal were duplicate comments, filing multiple comments under the same physical address or email. When eliminating duplicate comments and comments from non-valid addresses, 69.3 percent of the comments favored the proposal.

But when researchers dug deeper, the needle swung the other way. When considering “unique” comments which appeared only once, nearly 87 percent sided against the proposal.

Despite being commissioned by Broadband for America, a telecommunications industry lobbying group, Emprata wrote it conducted “an independent and unbiased analysis.”

Advocacy groups fighting the FCC proposal chalked up the report as a minor victory.

“So the telecom industry’s own study essentially shows what nearly all other polling on this issue has shown: that 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,” wrote Evan Greer, the campaign director for Fight for the Future.

Photo: Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outside the American Enterprise Institute before his arrival May 5, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama in 2012, Pai was elevated to the chairmanship of the FCC by U.S. President Donald Trump in January. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

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