The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) temporarily shut down the public comment feature on a new proposal that could have a major impact on the future of the internet after it was bombarded with thousands of automated messages.
The messages, which were all identical aside from the name and mailing address they were submitted under, express support for the FCC’s new plan to eliminate rules that require broadband internet service providers to uphold net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that ISPs treat all data equally. Comcast cannot deliver its own streaming service at a higher speed than Netflix, for example. Nor could it censor web content entirely under the FCC’s rules.
The FCC imposed these rules in 2015 by reclassifying ISPs as “common carriers,” or public utilities like telephone and electricity services, under Title II of the Communications Act. Now under the leadership of Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Trump administration appointee, the FCC plans to drop the Title II classification. But first, it wants the public to have the chance to comment before the Commission votes on May 18.
This is what the messages look like:
More than 5,000 public comments have been submitted so far, and nearly all of them are that same message, at the time of publication.
An FCC spokesman did not say whether the public commenting feature was disrupted by the bots, nor did he say how the Commission plans to treat these comments. Either way, the public commenting system is back up and running, so if you care about net neutrality one way or the other, go make your voice heard.