Earlier today, the FCC voted to move forward with their new proposed net neutrality rules. While somewhat tempered from the original rumored proposal, the proposed rule is still far-sweeping and controversial. The FCC is expecting a whole heap of opinions to come pouring in on the issue, now that the official comment period is open.
If you have strong feelings about the proposed rule, now’s your time to be heard. What does that really entail? It’s not that different from talking to any other part of the government: you just need to think about what you want to say, to whom, and how.
How do I make a comment on an FCC proceeding?
The e-mail inbox the FCC set up for accepting comments prior to today’s meeting — email@example.com — is still active. However, now that the official comment period has opened, there’s another way.
The FCC proceeding is officially docket 14-28 on the Open Internet. (Net neutrality is a catchy term, but not the FCC’s technical language.)
The first comment period is open for 60 days — from right now until July 15. The second comment period, from July until September 10, will be the reply phase, for filing comments in response to other comments.
Anyone can leave comments using the Electronic Comment Filing System and looking for Proceeding 14-28 (or by following this direct link). There are “express” and “standard” forms available; individuals speaking for themselves (as opposed to law firms or corporations) can use “express.” It’s the one that looks like this:
The form will ask for a few pieces of information: the proceeding number, your name, your e-mail address (optional), your address, and your comment.
As we mentioned before, public means public. All comments received by e-mail, postal mail, and web form become part of the record, searchable online, and that includes the names and addresses of the people who send them in.
What should a productive comment say?
When comments to the e-mail address, the web form, and good old-fashioned postal mail are added up, the commission has well over 30,000 comments on the record so far — and some of those “comments” are submitted petitions with tens of thousands of signatures.
So the good news is that they are receiving a tidal wave of feedback on the issue. The bad news is that the signal to noise ratio in that morass of comments can be… not so hot.
If you want to let the FCC know what you think, consider how you can make it useful for them to read. A one-liner saying “Keep net neutrality!” is not a fruitful comment, because it doesn’t tell anyone specifically what you want them to do or avoid doing.
The core of it is that pay-for-priority, “fast lane” access will be considered against the rule until proven otherwise, meaning companies can do it all they want as long as they can argue a case for why it’s justifiable. But there are three other major questions also specifically up for public comment:
- Should there be an outright ban on fast lanes?
- Should broadband access be classified as a Title II common carrier?
- Should the new Open Internet provisions also cover wireless (mobile) broadband?
This is the public’s chance to provide their answers — your answers — to those questions.
So consider the rule, and then bear in mind the key things your comment needs to address:
- Why is it important to you — in what specific way would a certain outcome help or hurt?
- What would you like the person you’re contacting to do about it?
And remember: you don’t have to be a master of prose, and you don’t have to like the commissioners or their idea, but you should be civil if you want to be taken seriously.
If you’re stuck for words, there are some organizations out there with sample letters you can use. And goodness knows we here at Consumerist have covered the topic extensively if you need a refresher on the issue.
But really, just think about what matters to you. If you use the internet at all (and you do!), you have your own reasons for wanting to make sure you can still manage your life online in the way that best suits you. If you think the FCC’s plan to let the biggest of the big companies spend more money to limit your access for you isn’t conducive to your goal to just keep on doing your thing, that’s what the FCC needs to hear.