22 million comments later, and there’s still no clear direction in the debate for net neutrality. As of the end of August, the Federal Communications Commission closed the open comment system that allowed users to voice their concerns in regards to ending net neutrality. Not surprisingly, they waited until the day before closing it to release a 13,000-page listing of consumer complaints against Internet Service Providers, which might have drastically increased the visibility of why net neutrality is so important. This list was requested in May by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which argued that all complaints filed since 2015 should be released in order for the public to understand the potential impact of repealing net neutrality. Even with the release, not all details were made public, so it is still unclear exactly how damaging the information could be. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however.
The comment system set up by the FCC was never infallible, allowing for spammers and fake entries based on real identities used without consent. The system also went down, keeping who knows how many voices silent. While we will never know exactly how many of the 22 million commenters are fake, it still holds true that more users are in favor of net neutrality that those against.
The request by the NHMC brings to light possible actions by the FCC of ignoring evidence of harm done by ISP’s towards their customers, including inconsistent speeds, privacy, blocking and billing issues. If the ISP’s are not acting in the best interest of their customers, then they are in violation of net neutrality. If the FCC is not acting upon this evidence, then it’s clear that they are not interested in handling their responsibilities.
Even with all the support shown in favor of net neutrality, it all comes down to the FCC and its current chairman, Ajit Pai, who has been consistently against net neutrality. He recently compared the arguments for net neutrality to laws passed in 1936 regarding telegraphs and paperwork – that certain aspects are so outmoded that they become a moot point. While it’s true that technology moves fast and furiously, and not all arguments will be useful, we are still dealing with people who run the ISP’s who seem more concerned about their bottom line and who gets paid. Though a cynical take, it still boils down to level playing fields and preventing monopolies. We will continue to monitor this topic as changes occur, and will ensure that our clients, friends, and supporters have the information needed to make their own judgement.