The FCC's net neutrality comment period doesn't actually end until Sept. 10

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"Nobody's going to get turned away."

Despite what you may see online, Tuesday, July 15, 2014 is not the final day to submit your comment about saving net neutrality to the Federal Communications Commission.

The deadline, for all practical purposes, is still months away: Sept. 10.

That doesn't mean, of course, that you should stay silent. If you have strong feelings on whether Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon should be able to charge extra to access certain websites at full speed, then by all means, do as sites like Reddit, Google, and Netflix have done, log onto FCC.gov and voce your opinion. Internet freedom group Fight for the Future even has a handy widget to help you do so.

Just know that if you don't do it by Tuesday, you've still got nine more weeks.

The confusion stems by the fact that the FCC's designated comment period for net neutrality is nominally split into two different phases: the "public comment" phase, which runs from May 15 to July 15, and the "reply comment" phase, from July 16 to Sept 10.

"The practical matter is, there's very little difference [between the two periods]," Gigi Sohn, Special Counsel for External Affairs, told the Daily Dot. "We're still accepting all comments."

The distinction is a byproduct of how the FCC normally deals with issues, the vast majority of which aren't remotely as controversial as net neutrality. The idea is that the agency will normally open up the floor to whoever wants to register a comment—often a corporation or nonprofit advocacy group—and then ask other groups to reply to what the initial comments said. Think of the comment thread at the bottom of practically any article on the Internet: One person leaves an initial remark, and others reply, but they're both essentially comments.

"Typically, someone like my former employer, Public Knowledge, would use the reply period to address what Comcast said in its comments," Sohn said. "That's the typical role of reply comments, the practical matter."

"It's just the way our process works," she added, noting the FCC will still read comments submitted in the reply period even if they weren't, say, explicit rebuttals to Comcast's initial comments. "Nobody's going to get turned away," she said.

Update: After its website shut down due to traffic overload, FCC on Tuesday afternoon announced that it would extend the first period for public comments on net neutrality until Friday, July 18:

“The deadline for filing submissions as part of the first round of public comments in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding arrived today. Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS). Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record. Accordingly, we are extending the comment deadline until midnight Friday, July 18. You also have the option of emailing your comments to openinternet@fcc.gov, and your views will be placed in the public record.”

Photo by Skley/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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