[Editor's Note: on July 14th the FCC extended the deadline for comments to midnight on Friday, July 18.]
If you care about keeping an open, fair Internet (commonly referred to as "Net Neutrality"), the deadline to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is Tuesday, July 15. The On May 15, 2014
On May 15, the FCC released this Fact Sheet, which started a four-month period of seeking comments from the public:
"Since February, tens of thousands of Americans have offered their views to the Commission on how to protect an Open Internet. The proposal reflects the substantial public input we have received. The Commission wants to continue to hear from Americans across the country throughout this process. An extended four-month public comment period on the Commission’s proposal will be opened on May 15 – 60 days (until July 15) to submit initial comments and another 57 days (until September 10) for reply comments."
The Fact Sheet also stated:
"This Notice seeks public comment on the benefits of applying Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and Title II of the Communications Act, including the benefits of one approach over the other, to ensure the Internet remains an open platform for innovation and expression. While the Notice reflects a tentative conclusion that Section 706 presents the quickest and most resilient path forward..."
As I explained in a May 15 blog post, this legalese about Section 706 refers to the current classification of broadband as an "information service," meaning slow and fast lanes are allowed, as said by the courts. Title II refers to re-classifying broadband as a telecommunications service (e.g., utility), which allows the FCC to enforce strict net neutrality as we've all known the Internet to be until now.
Strict net neutrality means that you, the consumer, decides where you go on the Internet. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides you with bandwidth and you decide where to go and what to do with that bandwidth. Without net neutrality, your ISP decides.
The phrase "quickest and most resilient path forward" probably refers to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's preference not to re-classify broadband as a telecommunications service, and avoid a long political battle aggains ISPs and their lobbyists. Reclassification would allow the FCC to enforce strict net neutrality and prohibit the ISPs from charging both fees to certain website operators (e.g., Netflix and others) and higher fees to consumers for "fast lane" Internet access to those websites that have paid fees, while relegating website operators that don't pay the fees to the "slow lane."
If you want to learn more, read this analysis by the Center For Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, this summary by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and/or the Internet Access section of this blog. What the FCC Fact Sheet omitted was the fact the FCC first classified broadband as an "information service" in 2002, after President George W. Bush had appointed Michael Powell as FCC Chairman in 2001. Before President Obama appointed Wheeler as FCC Chairman, Wheeler served as an industry lobbyist.
To make matters worse, the corporate ISPs have already gained restrictive laws in some states that prevent towns and municipalities from operating their own fiber Internet services. If is fair to ask: how many more jobs and new businesses would have been created in your state (or city) if it had fiber Internet access everywhere? Some local towns tried and got squashed:
"In North Carolina a couple of years ago lobbyists for Time Warner persuaded the state legislature to make it almost impossible, virtually impossible for municipalities to get their own utility... And so now North Carolina, after being beaten up by the incumbents is at the near the bottom of broadband rankings for the United States... All those students in North Carolina, all those businesses that otherwise would be forming, they don't have adequate connections in their towns to allow this to happen..."
Is this fair? Not to me, and I believe you feel similarly. ISPs can't have it both ways, less regulation by killing net neutrality and restrictive local laws to limit true competition. If you believe that more competition leads to lower prices, then it is fair to wonder how many more jobs would have been created in the USA with broadband reclassified as a telecommunications service (e.g., a utility)?
So, it is time for all consumers to do their part and contact the FCC. You have several options:
- The offical FCC Electronic Comment Filing system for comments between now and July 15
- The official FCC e-mail address for comments. It's probably best to include either Proceeding Number 14-28 or 09-191 with your e-mail comments and the subject line (although the FCC should have clarified these instructions)
- Write via postal mail: Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554
- Call the FCC at: 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322)
- The Dear FCC.org form created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
- The form at U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders' website (I-Vermont)
- Petitions: U.S. Senator Markey (D-Massachusetts), MoveOn, Credo Action, Daily Kos, Bold Progressives, and the White House
Of course, besides submitting comments directly to the FCC you should also contact your elected officials. What to tell the FCC? That's your decision. A good first step is to read the FCC's May 15 Fact Sheet, so you submit comments that are brief, relevant and specific to each Proceeding Number, when using method #1 above.
Also, I suggest:
- To keep Net Neutrality; real Net Neutrality not the fake Net Neutrality in the latest policy proposed by FCC Chairman Wheeler.
- The healthiest democracy possible, with everyone having access to information.
- To keep the freedom to choose the websites you visit, and not lose that freedom when ISPs choose. Consumers decide what they do with the electricity, water, phone, and gas services to their homes. The same freedom of choice applies to Internet access and bandwidth
- The FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility (e.g., telecommunications).
- Real broadband competition everywhere, not the fake competition where the corporate ISPs have gentleman's agreements that divided up the country so cable never competes against fiber. That also includes stopping the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable
- Local prohibitions removed so local governments and their residents can develop broadband utilities, if they choose. Local governments should have the same freedoms as corporate ISPs. This increases competition and will (hopefully) lower broadband prices.
- Everyone to have broadband at the lowest prices possible: for education and schools, to create jobs, and to encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses.