The FCC has proposed an end to net neutrality, meaning the possible end of a free and open internet. Under net neutrality rules, the FCC requires internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to give equal footing to all websites and internet services.
Like last time, the FCC has opened up a forum for commenting on their proposal. Comments will be open until July 18, and replies to comments are due by August 16. So far, there are five million comments.
To file a comment, visit this link. Click on “Express” to add a comment and click on “New Filing” to upload documents.
Gigi Sohn, a former FCC counselor, gave advice for commenting in a Mashable post. In addition to serving as a counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sohn co-founded Public Knowledge, a non-profit advocating for equal competition.
Of course, there are templates that you can use to comment, but original, thoughtful comments can help make a stronger case for keeping net neutrality rules and help experts argue for it in an inevitable legal case against the repeal. Posts that say things like “Net neutrality is bad :(” under the name “John Oliver” hold a lot less weight than posts that make a strong, detailed case against it.
Already commented and don’t feel like you nailed it? You can comment again. “Over the course of a proceeding like this, companies and organizations on both sides of the debate will file many comments, including after they visit FCC Commissioners and staff to make their cases,” wrote Sohn.
Below are some tips Sohn has on making your comment matter.
1. Make it personal
Write about how net neutrality personally affects you. “Maybe you are an entrepreneur who sells craft chocolates and coffee and could never compete if Godiva and Starbucks paid for faster carriage. Perhaps you sell crafts on Etsy, which would never have caught the public’s eye if ISPs could favor Amazon or eBay for any reason,” wrote Sohn in her post.
But the end of net neutrality can affect you even if you don’t run a small business. You can write about how you use the internet or how it has improved your life. Did you get a degree on the internet? Do you connect with friends over social media? “If you believe those benefits would be lost should ISPs be able to pick winners and losers on the Internet, say so,” she said.
2. Comment on why you pay for internet access
Why did you sign up for broadband? “Is it to get an email address, cloud storage or other online services from that specific provider?” Sohn wrote. “Or is it to get reliable access to all the Internet offers at fast speeds? Tell the FCC if you get email, cloud storage, web hosting and other over-the-top services from someone other than your ISP.”
The FCC currently classifies broadband ISPs as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” In reversing net neutrality, it is trying to argue that ISPs are offering (and people are buying) access to the internet and other services like email and storage on the cloud.
Broadband was originally seen as a “telecommunications service,” but in 2015, the FCC looked at how broadband was being advertised and what consumers thought they were buying. They changed the definition of broadband ISPs to an “information service” because consumers were paying for broadband to access the internet quickly, rather than to access different ways of communicating with others.
3. Write about the variety (or, more likely, lack thereof) for broadband Internet
One argument people who oppose net neutrality cite is that customers can switch to other ISPs. However, an April FCC report found that 58% of Americans have access to zero or one broadband ISP, and 87% of Americans only have access to two.
In addition to addressing the lack of choice, you could also mention the difficulties that come with switching ISPs. “What choices do you have at 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up (the FCC’s definition of broadband)? Are they real choices or are all the ISPs charging the same prices for essentially the same service? What are the costs to you of switching? Would you suffer a financial penalty? Would you have to buy new equipment? Would you have to take a day or two off from work waiting for installation?”
4. Address what you think the FCC’s role should be in regulating the internet
Another aspect of the debate is whether the FCC should be able to regulate broadband internet service providers. “This role includes ensuring that consumers are protected from, among other things, invasions of their privacy, fraudulent billing and price gouging by their broadband providers,” Sohn wrote. “If the FCC is left without authority over broadband ISPs, Comcast could double its prices overnight, and there wouldn’t be anything the FCC or any other agency could do about it.”
If you think the FCC should have this authority, write about why this is important to you and what aspects of broadband the FCC should be able to regulate.