Support Marketplace

The FCC has been inundated with comments. Now what?

The Federal Communications Commission is getting inundated with comments on its proposed net neutrality rules.

The folks weighing in include regular people, business owners and musicians. The band OK Go ganged up with a bunch of other artists to write a letter objecting to parts of the proposed net neutrality rules. They don't like the idea that broadband companies could charge extra for "fast lanes" on the web, which could give some content providers an advantage. OK Go's lead singer Damian Kulash fears big-pocketed content providers would push little guys out of the way online.

"Our big breakthrough was a video we made in my backyard for $5. Suddenly, a band could get directly to their fans with a massive video that we'd made for almost no money," he says.

Kulash thinks the FCC's current proposal could crimp, not advance, that kind of open access to an online audience.

On the other side of the debate sits the telecom industry, which doesn't like the idea that it might be regulated as a utility. Telecom companies say that could kill investment and innovation.

The FCC says it's putting extra processes in place so all public input is seriously considered. The agency's commissioner and senior staff get summaries of the comments.

But law professor Christopher Yoo at the University of Pennsylvania says the FCC is too constrained by court rulings on its proposed regulations, and can't take all views into consideration at this point.

He doubts that the final version of the rules will be shaped by posts and emails from average Joes.

"They will be used by whichever side of the debate it favors as rhetorical flourish," Yoo says.

Blair Levin, a former chief of staff with the FCC, is more hopeful that every comment counts.

"This is obviously one of the issues about which the public cares most that the FCC will be dealing with," Levin says.

Levin thinks the FCC still has a lot of options on the table. The agency hopes to finalize the rules by year's end.

Editors' Note: American Public Media Group, Marketplace's parent, submitted comments to the FCC generally in favor of net neutrality.

About the author

Annie Baxter covers education.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...