Net neutrality comments top 20 million

Net neutrality comments top 20 million
© Greg Nash

The public has filed over 20 million comments to the Federal Communications Commission over its plan to scrap the net neutrality rules.

It's a record for FCC comments and more than five times the number filed on the agency's previous net neutrality proposal in 2015. The comments on that plan held the prior record with nearly 4 million filed.

Republican Chairman Ajit Pai's Restoring Internet Freedom proposal would roll back the Obama-era internet rules aimed at preventing broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T from discriminating against certain types of web content.

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Broadband companies have fought the rules, calling them too onerous and saying they discourage innovation. But consumer groups and web companies are fighting to save the rules, saying they create a level playing field on the internet.  

Pro-net neutrality advocacy groups like Public Knowledge and Access Now, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and congressional Democrats, have been pushing the FCC to extend the deadline for comments.

Last week, the agency decided to extend the filing deadline on net neutrality comments from Aug. 16 to Aug. 30.

Broadband interests like the NCTA, a trade association representing companies including Comcast, Charter and Cox Communications, opposed an extension, alleging that many of the comments have been fake.

Both sides say its likely a significant number of the more than 20 million comments are fraudulent. Suspicious comments filed both in support of and against net neutrality have been reported as potentially fake. Some comments have been virtually identical, suggesting they may have been filed by automated programs. In other cases, people have said they did not file comments attributed to them.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have called for an investigation into the matter.