FCC delays net neutrality commentary deadline after 'overwhelming' response

The FCC is using a 17-year-old comments system to maintain a public record on the open internet debate. The agency's CIO acknowledged last week that an upgrade is in the works.


The fervor surrounding the net neutrality debate is not showing any signs of abating as the Federal Communications Commission has decided to keep the digital forum open longer.

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The FCC announced on Tuesday that it would be bumping back the deadline for the first round of public commentary on the issue of an open internet until midnight on Friday, July 18.

The comments session was originally scheduled to wrap up at midnight on Tuesday, July 15.

The delay follows news that the FCC's 17-year old Electronic Comment Filing System was swamped and eventually overcome by a last-minute wave of traffic before the original deadline was supposed to have gone into effect.

FCC press secretary Kim Hart confirmed as much in a statement on Tuesday morning.

"Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)," wrote Hart. "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."

Dr. David A. Bray, chief information officer for the FCC, explained in a blog post last week that "when the ECFS system was created in 1996, the Commission presumably didn’t imagine it would receive more than 100,000 electronic comments on a single telecommunications issue."

As of last Friday, the FCC had already received more than 647,000 comments on net neutrality alone.

Bray acknowledged that an upgrade might be overdue, noting that the IT team is already researching better methods for tracking and storing comments as the they "work to modernize the FCC enterprise."

Hart also said that, along with the FCFS, interested parties can email comments to openinternet@fcc.gov to be included in the public record.

Chart via The Official FCC Blog