Today was supposed to be the deadline for people to respond to the FCC’s proposed open Internet rules — the ones that HBO’s John Oliver famously lambasted last month. But the agency extended the comment period to midnight on Friday after “an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website” made it “difficult for many people to file comments” on the FCC’s electronic filing system, it says today. “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,” the agency says, adding that people also can contribute to the public record by emailing their views to email@example.com.
The public response could be unusually important to the proceedings because the commission itself is so divided on a key question: Should it reclassify the Internet as a kind of telecom service, which the FCC can clearly regulate, or keep it defined as an information service, which requires the agency to take a lighter touch? In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC remanded the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2010 saying that they overreached the agency’s authority over an information service. Two of the Democratic commissioners are open to reclassifying the Internet. But the two GOP members strongly oppose that. Chairman Tom Wheeler steered a middle course. He proposed extensive changes without reclassifying the Web — but said that he considers it an option.
Open Internet advocates say that if the FCC doesn’t reclassify, then broadband companies will be able to create so-called fast lanes for favored content providers. Cable and telco companies say that they have no plans to favor some over others, and warn that reclassification could frighten the investors they need to support expansion and upgrade efforts.
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