With the deadline to file comments passed, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now has to begin the task of combing through 1,067,779 submissions from the public, a number that the FCC’s head of public engagement Gigi Sohn said is among the highest ever. Many of the comments are said to be angry and filled with foul language.
Reply comments will continue through September 10. New rules are expected by the end of the year.
According to Variety:
Much of the interest appears to have been triggered by the notion that the FCC proposal will be too weak to prevent ISPs from making deals for so-called “paid prioritization,” in which an Internet site could pay to have content like video delivered to a subscriber at a faster speed and better quality. Critics say that “paid prioritization” would lead to a Balkanization of the Internet, in which well-heeled content providers pay for “fast lanes” to gain an advantage.
Some companies like Verizon would be happy to charge companies a little extra for the privilege of having faster speeds.
“Such flexibility to experiment with alternative arrangements not only can reduce costs to end users while allowing them to access the content they demand, but also benefit [Web services] and spur continued investment in broadband infrastructure,” they wrote in a letter to the FCC.
Netflix is not.
Organizations like Writers Guild America West have also advocated for net neutrality on the basis of free speech and the need for an open internet. The average person wants to make sure they can still stream “Orange Is The New Black” and the latest music videos without an issue.
Some companies, like AT&T, seeing the emotion that this issue has generated among people, have taken the stance in favor whatever is deemed “fair.”
For all of the comments and outrage, NPR says many of the comments probably won’t matter if they’re submitted through form letters or lack in the detail and knowledge that will sway opinion. Big companies with lots of cash are usually the ones with the ability to really reach the FCC. One law professor suggests that a public poll on the issue would actually be better than a one-line comment.
However, the comments will be useful for the companies on either side (or riding the fence) on the issue. Knowing the outrage that’s out there and which way the public is leaning should be a business consideration for them. If the public doesn’t like you, there’s a reputation problem that you’ll have to deal with.
As for the FCC, let’s hope that they’re truly taking the sentiment of the public — the customer — into account. Large companies shouldn’t be the only ones with a voice.