(Adds latest tally of comments)
By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON, July 15 The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission on Tuesday pushed back to July 18 the
first deadline to submit comments on the agency's proposed new
Internet traffic rules after a surge in traffic overwhelmed its
online filing system.
Companies, consumer advocates, lawmakers and citizens have
sent some 780,000 comments on the FCC's proposed so-called net
neutrality rules -- which guide how Internet service providers
(ISPs) manage web traffic on their networks -- as the deadline
for first comments approached on Tuesday.
For much of Tuesday, however, the database appeared to be
down or unaccessible, which FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart attributed
to an "overwhelming surge in traffic."
"Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these
issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to
submit comments will have their views entered into the record,"
she said, announcing a delay of the deadline to midnight on July
After that, commenters will be able to reply to each other's
initial submissions through Sept. 10.
The proposal has attracted one of the biggest responses in
FCC's history, showcasing the complicated and intense nature of
the debate launched after a federal court in January struck down
the FCC's previous version of such rules.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that would ban
ISPs from blocking users' access to websites or applications but
would allow some "commercially reasonable" deals between content
providers and ISPs to prioritize delivery of some traffic.
The proposal stirred up consumer advocates who have long
advocated that the FCC reclassify and regulate ISPs as
telecommunications services, like public utilities -- a move
rejected by cable and wireless companies and by Republicans both
in Congress and at the FCC.
Wheeler has not proposed reclassification as the solution,
but has not taken it off the table as a potential route, though
some industry experts have suggested reclassification could
leave the door open for paid prioritization deals.
"Reclassification ... is not only entirely unnecessary but
would be unwise and likely unlawful," Comcast Corp
said in its filing on Tuesday.
Thirteen prominent Senate Democrats, including Ed Markey,
Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Charles Schumer and Elizabeth
Warren, in turn wrote to the FCC calling for reclassification,
with appropriate legal caveats for the industry.
Another call for reclassification on Tuesday came in
co-signed comments from the attorneys general of New York and
Illinois, Eric Schneiderman and Lisa Madigan.
Several web companies such as Vimeo and Etsy have also urged
the FCC to reclassify ISPs, though the industry's Washington
representative, the Internet Association, has not sought that
specific approach in its opposition of the FCC allowing some
"We don't want to live in a world where there are fast lanes
and slow lanes for the Internet because we don't believe we
could afford to pay for the fast lane," Etsy's policy director,
Althea Erickson, told Reuters TV on Monday.
"It's really hard to imagine Etsy being able to start and
grow under the conditions that the chairman is proposing."
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Additional reporting by Karen
Freifeld and Lily Jamali in New York and Marina Lopes in
Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bernard Orr and Leslie