FCC's Open Internet Docket Explodes

The FCC's open internet docket, dubbed "Restoring Internet Freedom," has seen a huge wave of comments—or at least a major update of the number posted—since Friday, with over 4.9 million posted, up about 2 million from Friday afternoon's 2.9 million-plus.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an opponent of Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back Title II, said earlier this year he thought the comments would dwarf those in the docket for the 2015 Open Internet order—over 4 million. 

With still more than two months left in the comment cycle, he could be right.

Pai has signaled the FCC would err on the side of allowing "questionable" comments for the sake of a full and robust record.

"[T]here's obviously a tension between having [an] open process where it's easy to comment and preventing questionable comments from being filed, and generally speaking, this agency has erred on the side of openness," he told reporters at last month's public meeting. "[W]e want to encourage people to participate in as easy an accessible a way as possible," he said.

"Fake comments were filed in the 2014-15 proceeding under names like Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Stalin, just to name a few," he continued. "This time around I think the bottom line is I urge everyone who's interested in this issue to participate in the process in an honest and forthright way…"

The latest comments suggest that the FCC is erring on the side of allowing all flowers to bloom, including the plastic ones, but that the honest and forthright might be too much of an ask. 

In fact, among the 10 top comment authors, according to the FCC, were the names Washington Irving (author of Rip Van Winkle) and this screed (yes, it appeared as an author’s name): "What the f--- did you just f---ing say about me, you little b---h? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I’ve been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Quaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in gorilla [sic] warfare and I’m the top sniper in the entire US armed forces.…" 

The docket has generated much heated rhetoric and pushback, with counter charges of bot-driven mass filings for and against the chairman's proposal; allegations of filings using the names of dead people and even those associated with a terrorist website, as well as the FCC saying a DDoS attack interfered with the process at one point. 

There have also been calls from Capitol Hill Democrats for an investigation into charges of fake anti-Title II comments and the FCC DDoS attack.

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.