FCC’s Net Neutrality Docket Heats Up — Again

 A man working on a laptop with net neutrality text on the screen.
A man working on a laptop with net neutrality text on the screen.

Fans of Title II-based network neutrality rules are once again flooding the Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality comment docket with identical calls for restoration of the rules, as the Democrat-controlled agency has proposed.

The docket already has almost 20,000 comments and, as such, is the commission’s most active proceeding, far outstripping the second-place docket for rules on international communications and spectrum issues, which has less than 3,000.

The comments contain language the same as that on a website from battleforthenet.com, which is a project of Fight for the Future and Demand Progress, supporters of classifying high-speed internet access under Title II of the Communications Act.

Those groups have made it easy to give the FCC the following piece of the respective commenters mind: “I strongly support the FCC’s current effort to reinstate net neutrality and Title II authority, which is critical for an open internet, expanding broadband access, privacy protections and public safety. The agency must move forward a strong rule that rejects zero rating, ensures interconnection and allows for state preemption.”

A check of comments posted on November 2 found page after page of submissions sporting that exact language.

The last time the FCC weighed into the net neutrality rule arena — on the way to eliminating the rules under the previous chair, Republican Ajit Pai — the number and types of comments became a major flashpoint, prompting outside investigations, including by the New York State Attorney General and the FBI.
Current FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel, then a commissioner, was very vocal about what she said were millions of fake comments. She was not suggesting that comments with the same wording were fake, but that comments had been ginned up by email generators using stolen names and bogus domains to boost comment totals.

The current net neutrality docket has a ways to go to reach the astronomical heights of the 2017 docket flood, which at one point reached 18 million submissions, though by one analysis at least a quarter of those were fake.

The docket also became the most active in 2020 when the FCC sought input on a court ruling upholding most, but not all, of the FCC's decision to scrap the rule. That number was “only” in the thousands.