The FCC Needs Your Quality Comments About Net Neutrality Today

from the please-comment dept

Today is the deadline for the first round of the FCC’s comment period on its attempt to roll back the 2015 open internet “net neutrality” rules. The deadline is partly meaningless, because there’s a second comment period that is technically to respond to earlier comments — but allows you to just file more comments. However, it is still important to make your voice heard no matter which side you’re on. We’ll be posting our own comments later today, but first, we wanted to share Mike Godwin’s thoughtful discussion on why you should comment and why you should provide a thoughtful, careful “quality” comment, which he first posted to the R-Street blog, but which is being cross posted here.

If you count just by numbers alone, net-neutrality activists have succeeded in their big July 12 push to get citizens to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission. As I write this, it looks as if 8 million or more comments have now been filed on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to roll back the expansive network-neutrality authority the commission asserted under its previous chairman in 2015.

There’s some debate, though, about whether the sheer number of comments?which are unprecedented not only for the FCC, but also for any other federal agency?is a thing that matters. I think they do, but not in any simple way. If you look at the legal framework under which the FCC is authorized to regulate, you see that the commission has an obligation to open its proposed rulemakings (or revisions or repeals of standing rules) for public comments. In the internet era, of course, this has meant enabling the public (and companies, public officials and other stakeholders) to file online. So naturally enough, given the comparative ease of filing comments online, controversial public issues are going to generate more and more public comments over time. Not impossibly, this FCC proceeding?centering as it does on our beloved public internet?marks a watershed moment, after which we’ll see increasing flurries of public participation on agency rulemakings.

Columbia University law professor Tim Wu?who may fairly be considered the architect of net neutrality, thanks to his having spent a decade and a half building his case for it?tweeted July 12 that it would be “undemocratic” if the commission ends up “ignoring” the (as of then) 6.8 million comments filed in the proceeding.

But a number of critics immediately pointed out, correctly, that the high volume of comments (presumed mostly to oppose Pai’s proposal) doesn’t entail that the commission bow to the will of any majority or plurality of the commenters.

I view the public comments as relevant, but not dispositive. I think Wu overreaches to suggest that ignoring the volume of comments is “undemocratic.” We should keep in mind that there is nothing inherently or deeply democratic about the regulatory process ? at least at the FCC. (In fairness to Wu, he could also mean that the comments need to be read and weighed substantively, not merely be tallied and dismissed.)

But I happen to agree with Wu that the volume of comments is relevant to regulators, and that it ought to be. Chairman Pai (whose views on the FCC’s framing net neutrality as a Title II function predate the Trump administration) has made it clear, I think, that quantity is not quality with regard to comments. The purpose of saying this upfront (as the chairman did when announcing the proposal) is reasonably interpreted by Wu (and by me and others) as an indicating he believes the commission is at liberty to regulate in a different way from what a majority (or plurality) of commenters might want. Pai is right to think this, I strongly believe.

But the chairman also has said he wants (and will consider more deeply) substantive comments, ideally based on economic analysis. This seems to me to identify an opportunity for net-neutrality advocates to muster their own economists to argue for keeping the current Open Internet Order or modifying it more to their liking. And, of course, it’s also an opportunity for opponents of the order to do the same.

But it’s important for commenters not to miss the forest for the trees. The volume of comments both in 2014 and this year (we can call this “the John Oliver Effect“) has in some sense put net-neutrality advocates in a bind. Certainly, if there were far fewer comments (in number alone) this year, it might be interpreted as showing declining public concern over net neutrality. Obviously, that’s not how things turned out. So the net-neutrality activists had to get similar or better numbers this year.

At the same time, advocates on all sides shouldn’t be blinded by the numbers game. Given that the chairman has said the sheer volume of comments won’t be enough to make the case for Title II authority (or other strong interventions) from the commission, it seems clear to me that while racking up a volume of comments is a necessary condition to be heard, it is not a sufficient condition to ensure the policy outcome you want.

Ultimately, what will matter most, if you want to persuade the commissioners one way or another on the net-neutrality proposal, is how substantive, relevant, thoughtful and persuasive your individual comments prove to be. My former boss at Public Knowledge, Gigi Sohn, a net-neutrality advocate who played a major role in crafting the FCC’s current Open Internet Order, has published helpful advice for anyone who wants to contribute to the debate. I think it ought to be required reading for anyone with a perspective to share on this or any other proposed federal regulation.

If you want to weigh in on net neutrality and the FCC’s role in implementing it?whether you’re for such regulation or against it, or if you think it can be improved?you should follow Sohn’s advice and file your original comments no later than Monday, July 17, or reply comments no later than Aug. 16. If you miss the first deadline, don’t panic?there’s plenty of scope to raise your issues in the reply period.

My own feeling is, if you truly care about the net-neutrality issue, the most “undemocratic” reaction would be to miss this opportunity to be heard.

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Comments on “The FCC Needs Your Quality Comments About Net Neutrality Today”

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Anonymous Coward says:

As substantive as this article is it misses one key factor. Phi doesn’t care. If you’ve seen the way he conducts himself and how in the face of overwhelming evidence he blissfully ignores it and continues to regurgitate long since debunked statistics in addiction to refusing to do anything about the bots spamming copy-paste anti-NN comments and impersonating people both living AND dead because he agrees with them.

Sure his comment about “taking a look at substantive comments discussing the economic impact of Title 2” implies he’s reasonable but it’s just him offering lip service. He’s not in any way serious about looking at those comments. He’s already made up his mind and no amount of data, facts, or statistics will sway him and is just going through the motions until he can vote to kill the rules.

I’m all for substantive comments that explain using data that NN is a good thing but as I stated earlier, Phi has no interest in entertaining comments he doesn’t agree with.

That’s what this whole article misses.

ThaumaTechnician (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe, but consider the difference between not entertaining one posted comment and not entertaining 6 million posted comments.

I makes it a lot easier to ignore and deride Pai’s decision (and Pai himself), to reverse the decision later, and to use the plethora of pro-neutrality comments as ammunition against corporations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

History shows that Governments have no problem with ignoring the majority of their populations when it serves their political interests. America is no exception to that.

When Americans realize they can stop eating from the two party tray it “might” change. Until then, the two parties and the shadow players that course through their veins will be pretty much getting their way for the foreseeable future.

I predict that we are going to lose on Net Neutrality. If we are lucky we will get “some” protections, but if that occurs we are still going to get something loop-holed into the law just like Wheeler did with Zero Rating.

We are not going to win, they have ZERO reason to listen to our voices when we have proven time and again after every election that we WON’T punish our politicians.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“When Americans realize they can stop eating from the two party tray it “might” change.”

Except that will never happen. Our system is set up so that 3rd Party candidates will 90% of the time never win. That’s why Bernie Sanders had to run as a Democrat. Unless you have a D or R next to your name you won’t win. EVER.

OGquaker (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: The new chromatic vs b&w vision

”When Americans realize they can stop eating from the two party tray it “might” change”

Yea, we now have a target on our back.
Feels like CoEnTel in the Green Party since monopolist capital (politics by the sharpest blade) woke up to the Bernie threat.

State Treasurer, Green Party Of California since 2011

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

consider the difference between not entertaining one posted comment and not entertaining 6 million posted comments.

I think Pai’s considering the difference between five offers to be a 7-figure/year lobbyist and six million instances of being offered nothing but the satisfaction of ‘doing the right thing.’

Honestly, I was gonna be an optimist today… but then I had some coffee and my mind cleared up. (My actual comments to the FCC were relatively caffeine-free, at least 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. This article is telling us to send quality comments but it misses the fact that the person who’ll read them DOESN’T CARE. If it’s Pro-NN then he’ll dismiss it no matter how many sources you cite.

What’s the point in sending them and doing the research when we know Pai has already made up his mind and is just paying lip service until he can vote to gut the rules?

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I submitted a fairly rational, evidence-supported comment to the FCC, but couldn’t help adding a postscript to clarify that it was submitted for aggregate, statistical use as part of the evidence that would be used in the consumer-rights lawsuit that would eventually follow the FCC’s decision to gut NN.

I think I may have a small problem with compulsive, passive-aggressive sarcasm.

Anonymous Coward says:

You don't understand how this administration works

The issue has already been decided. 1 million or 100 million comments DO NOT MATTER. The content of the comments DOES NOT MATTER. The economic and technical considerations DO NOT MATTER. Logic and reason, data and analysis DO NOT MATTER.

All that matters is what’s best for telecom executives. And that was already decided a long time ago. The “public comment period” is just another scam by an administration fully-stocked with scammers: the only reason it exists is so that they, their sycophants, and their enablers can later say “the FCC listened” even though of course they aren’t doing and will do no such thing.

Why should they? Who’s going to make them?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: You don't understand how this administration works

At this point, I think it’s still important to have your words out there, even if they are not listened to at this moment in time.

While the Trump administration seems hellbent of removing anything that happened during the previous administration no matter the cost, they won’t be there forever. Neither will the incompetent and malicious puppets he’s installing everywhere. At some point, the pendulum will swing the other way, and the (presumably) less extremist administration that comes after will have to look through what’s been done to repair the damage.

At that point, what will be better? Concrete evidence of overwhelming support for net neutrality, or a record that shows that people didn’t really support it because supporters just didn’t bother to comment? If we’re correct and Pai will just dismantle protections no matter what the comments say, getting net neutrality back in play at any point in the future will be much easier if it can proven that people have always supported it.

You can be cynical and say that this will never happen, that no FCC lead will ever be working in the interests of consumers over corporations and so forth. But, not bothering to get your opinion recorded as a matter of historical record makes that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You don't understand how this administration works

You’re certainly correct that one of the major agendas of the GOP at the moment is erasing everything Obama did — regardless of its merits — because they absolutely hate the very idea that a black man became President of the United States. If he’d cured cancer during his term, they’d be holding rallies and raising funds to bring the disease back — that’s how deep their racism-based hatred runs.

But where I think you err is that you’re presuming that the pro-net-neutrality comments will be preserved — so that they’re available at some later point in time when the grown-ups are in charge again. This is an administration that has already demonstrated, repeatedly, that it’s willing to disappear any data it finds inconvenient.

It will happen this way: The FCC will announce that because some of the comments were bot-driven that none of them can be taken seriously. And/or it will blame the EFF and other organizations for running campaigns, and will claim that these were nefariously-orchestrated efforts. And/or it will discount claims made by anyone who isn’t a network engineer. And/or it will manage to lose a few million of them in an “accident”. And/or it will claim that the expense of maintaining all of them is simply too great, and that as a cost-saving move that benefits taxpayers, they should all be deleted once the matter is decided.

These comments won’t be around when that future day comes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You don't understand how this administration works

“You’re certainly correct that one of the major agendas of the GOP at the moment is erasing everything Obama did — regardless of its merits — because they absolutely hate the very idea that a black man became President of the United States. If he’d cured cancer during his term, they’d be holding rallies and raising funds to bring the disease back — that’s how deep their racism-based hatred runs.”

I am betting that you are the racist. I do not like Clinton, Obama, Bush, or Trump. If all you have to judge others with is hate and vitriol then do not be surprised if people are not interested in what you think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You don't understand how this administration works

If a white person walks through a minority neighborhood and gets beaten, that white person is crazy.
If a minority walks through a white neighborhood and gets beaten, that neighborhood is racist.

Get the picture? The term has been so watered down it means nothing anymore. Anything a minority dislikes about a white person is boiled down to racism. If a white person does not accept every last thing about a minority it is nothing but racism. That is how you like to play it. No conversation, no understanding, just ad hominem attacks, hate, and vitriol while hypocritically calling for an end to the very hate you are facilitating.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 You don't understand how this administration works

If you don’t recognize that the GOP collectively lost its mind when a black man became President, you haven’t been paying attention.

If you don’t recognize that the current President first found political traction as a birther, you haven’t been paying attention.

If you don’t recognize that the current administration completely lacks any coherent agenda EXCEPT undoing every single thing the previous one did, then you’re not paying attention now.

This isn’t new. The GOP has been relying on overt and covert for half a century. But don’t take my word for it: here’s Lee Atwater, explaining it in 1981:

‘You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”’

The codewords have changed: now they include voter fraud, entitlements, big government, mandatory sentencing — but the strategy has never wavered. And you know what? It works, because it allows people to be racist without admitting it or thinking about the consequences. They can vote to hurt millions and millions of their fellow citizens in the most horrible ways, and then go to church on Sunday so they can congratulate themselves on being good Christians.

If you don’t see this, it’s because you don’t WANT to see it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 You don't understand how this administration works

“If you don’t recognize that the GOP collectively lost its mind when a black man became President, you haven’t been paying attention.”

The GOP lost its mind a long time ago. Obama being black did not change any of that. Look at the stupidity of the Bush admin. It is my opinion that Obama being black mattered to minorities far more than the GOP.

“If you don’t recognize that the current President first found political traction as a birther, you haven’t been paying attention.”

Oh I noticed that, but we are not talking bout that. Obama was brilliant playing the birther issue the way he did. It kept a lot of retards busy otherwise.

“If you don’t recognize that the current administration completely lacks any coherent agenda EXCEPT undoing every single thing the previous one did, then you’re not paying attention now.”

And now you lost me. I already stated I did not care for Trump. Oh, I keep forgetting, I don’t appear to agree with your position as you desire so I must be a dirty rotten Trump lover right? You really need to stop running to the democrat card deck when applying labels.

“The codewords have changed:”

Yea, they all remind me of “i need to create ways to be a victim” or “conspiracy nutting”. I was racially disparaged and picked on when I was in school. No one gave a shit about me because I was a white looking native American.

“mandatory sentencing” – This is just money, its always about money. They don’t care about shit, my poor as dirt white friends got fucked every bit as bad as my poor as dirt black friends. My white ass has been pulled over by the cops for looking too white and rich in a black neighborhood, essentially looking like a fucking drug dealer. My whiteness didn’t save me any grief. The police still made up a lie to pull me over.

I also fully recognize that America treated minorities like shit in the past as well, I belong to one. But black folk were not the only people that got treated like shit, just got treated the worst from the looks of it.

“If you don’t see this, it’s because you don’t WANT to see it.”

Sure is funny, that I have the opposite to say about you. You want to see it so bad that you see it even where it does not exist.

The mind is a funny thing, how you feel matters more than facts or information. They have a need to feel good about something even if it is wrong. As long as they can feel good, you can fuck them over real well! We will use anything we can to reason with ourselves that we are right or justified as we disparage and marginalize others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 You don't understand how this administration works

This was about the FCC until you started accusing others of being racist. I’m just giving you what you want. Since otherwise you will just project your racist feeling on others and then blame them when they notice you’re a racist asshole. Here at least is some actual racist corn for you to cluck over like a barnyard chicken.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Futile effort or not… Gigi Sohn’s article is a masterwork of clarity and forethought. My brain was a raging thunderstorm of unrelated, ill-sequenced rants on the NN topic, but by using her structure, I was able to craft a calm, reasoned discourse with a beginning, middle and end. I’ve changed the odds my comment might be useful, from billion-to-one (lunatic potty-mouthed screeching) to million-to-one.

Anonymous Coward says:

what’s the point? pai has already decided to do what HE wants, regardless of what anyone else says, including the government and politicians! this is all to get a bigger bank balance, give ISPs whatever they want and say ‘fuck you’ to consumers! even with the millions of comments going to the FCC already, stating that ‘net neutrality’ is wanted, and the ‘going dark’ by massive companies, Pai has already dispelled them. the man is nothing but an asshole but is typical of the sort of person that Trump puts in charge of the various departments and services! how the hell the people were stupid enough to vote him in in the first place is beyond me!!

CHRoNo§§ says:

when at first this was allowe din canada we had 24 million users of 34 million people

a year later it was 15 million

loss 9 million

the isps panicked and began those sneaky rate hikes , ripping people off that cant fight for themselves or dont know better, and of course bi yearly rate hikes. Thius further eroded user base another 3 million so these type a anti net neutrality rules that included blocking protocols like bittorrent and site blocking….lost a total of 50% of the entire nations internet userbase…

oh and they did not return to tv or a movie package….
the usa has 8 times more people , imagine if 96 million of you dropped your tv/movie/internet …..

our crtc eventually intervened and set rules and it was mostly a win on consumer side for indie isps….

i am with teksavvy and just got a 6 dollar a month reduction in price.

i said that to your fcc.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have the same speeds in Spain, for the equivalent of $80/month US. I don’t live near a major city, only barely on the edge of a popular tourist area, but fibre was installed a few years ago to bring me those speeds. I can also switch supplier at any time without having to switch lines.

This is possible because regulation forces the incumbent national ISP to compete and open up infrastructure to others, while ensuring that they cannot use unfair tactics to gain an advantage after installation.

It’s not perfect, but it does make the claims of the usual trolls here laughable – they claim that something cannot possibly happen, while it has happened already in other parts of the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Columbia University law professor Tim Wu—who may fairly be considered the architect of net neutrality, thanks to his having spent a decade and a half building his case for it—tweeted July 12 that it would be “undemocratic” if the commission ends up “ignoring” the (as of then) 6.8 million comments filed in the proceeding.”

We are not a democracy, and the founding fathers made it clear that we should never become one or operate as one. Democracy is the ignorant rule of the masses and a nation will never survive a democracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most governments are just exactly this. Yes, they don’t always survive but they do survive a lot longer than democracies. People clearly show that they can and will endure a lot of wrongs and burdens just to stay alive. If you feed a human, and give them at least 1 thing they can enjoy, you can certainly enslave the majority of them.

Human History 101, people are easy to control… sadly.

A lot of people think they are free and have choice. The illusion of safety and security counts far more than reality, it only matters how they feel about things.

JeffR says:

My customization to the EFF's submission

Already, large ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are placing data caps on customers while excluding their own data from those caps. This creates anti-competitive pressures on other companies providing on-demand services such as Netflix and Hulu.. not to mention smaller companies that could possibly grow to become the next Netflix or Hulu.

In my town, I have only one reasonable choice for high-speed internet. If that company decides to traffic-shape or limit my internet traffic, I have no reasonable alternative to turn to. If they decide to data-mine my traffic and sell the results to anyone or everyone, I have no reasonable alternative to turn to. If they decide to reduce their data caps to an unreasonable limit (or in the future as data demands grow, insufficiently increase that cap) I have no reasonable alternative to turn to.

The ISPs that control the last mile of connectivity between all of the customers/consumers in the United States have disproportionate power over those customers because of this lack of competition. Requiring them to treat all of their customer’s traffic equally as net-neutrality requires is something that is required until there is sufficient competition to allow the free market to solve the problem via market forces.

Michael Riendeau says:

What can we do to win?

We got to do SOMETHING to defeat Ajit Psi We are ENTITLED to a Free and Open Internet. We should start acting like it. So what can we do? If Pai, like many comments have said, won’t listen to reason, should we make him listen to violence?

If he defies us, we should demand his head like it’s the French Revolution.

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