FCC: Glitch, Backlog Delaying Broadband Privacy Comments

FCC press secretary Kim Hart has tracked down the problem with the missing Protect Internet Freedom (PIF) broadband privacy comments, which she says was a mixture of failure to communicate on the commenter side and a major comment backlog on the FCC's end due to comments on data plans and set-tops.

PIF complained that 2.200 comments submitted online over the past couple of weeks in the broadband privacy docket had not showed up, plus a couple of handfuls of comments filed manually that had received confirmation numbers from the FCC but had also not appeared.

It dispatched its lawyers to press the FCC for an answer.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was even grilled on the complaint during a Senate hearing on the proposal this week, saying it was a glitch that was being addressed.

Hart says that, in regard to the 2,200, the comments did not get to the FCC due to a problem with the way the automated script on the PIF Web site was communicating, or in this case not communicating, with the FCC.

She said the FCC commission been in contact with PIF to assist them in resolving that miscommunication.

As to the handful of comments PIF filed by hand and got confirmation they had been received, Hart said those had not been posted because they were part of a 74,000-comment backup across all dockets due to a recent spike in comments.

"The Commission is experiencing a backlog of filings that has delayed the dissemination of comments in multiple proceedings," she said. "The 10 comments filed directly to ECFS by Protect Internet Freedom are in the queue and will be processed and made available as soon as possible."

She attributed the spike to two proceedings in particular. One is the FCC's set-top proceeding, the other was the FCC's inquiry into zero rating plans and data caps.

Across all dockets, the FCC received more than 200,000 comments in the past four weeks, she said.

Under the current systems, all comments are automatically converted to PDF's before being loaded into the docket, and having to do that to more than 200,000 submissions has delayed the posting process.

Hart said the FCC has put more processing power into the effort and should have the 74,000-comment backlog cleared up by mid-week next week.

She also pointed out that the FCC is close to finishing an upgrade of the almost two-decades-old ECFS (electronic comment filing system) and hopes to have it up and running by mid-summer.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.