Tom Wheeler must be a glutton for punishment. The Federal Communications Commission has extended the deadline for comments on its proposed net neutrality rules after its site was bombarded with people trying to speak their piece before time ran out at the end of the night.
The comments on its website are part of the FCC’s efforts to show that it’s willing to listen to the public’s concerns when considering its proposed rules — which shouldn’t be too hard, given the protestors who punctuated the original discussion of the rules earlier this year — instead of running roughshod over the open Internet without acknowledging its effect on normal people.
The agency might have bitten off more than it could chew, however. A Twitter chat in which its special counsel for external affairs attempted to answer questions quickly became an attack on the rules, the agency, and Wheeler himself when it was conducted earlier this year:
The hashtag wasn’t co-opted by juvenile Twitter users like many social media campaigns are, and unlike the New York Police Department’s misguided attempt to use Twitter in April, the public outpouring of vehement criticism of the FCC’s proposed rules was not unexpected.
At least now the FCC might understand the sheer number of people worried about how its proposal will axe-murder — or at least maim — the Internet as it’s supposed to be. A hashtag has done something besides convince people that Stephen Colbert should be taken off the air. Twitter, or at least the hashtag activists who frequent its injustice circuit, should be proud.
Comments on the FCC’s website haven’t been much better. The Verge reported in June that many of the comments contain “f-bombs and death threats” in addition to referencing angry childhoods, dicks, and other fun things that Wheeler probably didn’t expect when he opened a government website to the writhing hatred of Internet commenters with nothing better to do.
Some have blamed this on a problem with the commenting system. Others fault John Oliver’s take-no-prisoners rant about the proposed rules. Oliver claims this isn’t the case, but everyone knows that invoking the wrath of Internet commenters can have cataclysmic consequences, so his denial isn’t worth much. Either way, it certainly inspired people to reach out to the FCC.
Now you have a few more days to tell Wheeler exactly what you think about his proposed rules, which could kill the open Internet as we know it, right on the FCC’s website. If that’s not the definition of masochism, at least on Wheeler’s part, I’m not sure what is.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]