09/15/2014 03:30 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Time's Running Out On The Net Neutrality Comment Period


Today is the last day to tell regulators how you feel about net neutrality, or the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

The Federal Communications Commission has received 3 million comments since the agency began debating the issue in April, an FCC spokeswoman said Monday. That's more than double the amount of public input the agency received after Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

About half of the net neutrality comments have arrived in the past week, following a major online protest Wednesday.

Protest organizers want the FCC to create strong rules that put greater oversight on Internet providers to ensure they don't discriminate against certain web content. Several major websites -- including Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, The Nation and Boing Boing -- showed their support by embedding a special code on their sites to show a "loading" icon.

Activists said the icon symbolized how Internet traffic could be slowed down if the FCC allows Internet providers such as Verizon to charge companies for access to an Internet "fast lane," thereby slowing service for companies that don't pay.

The code gave visitors a way to submit comments supporting net neutrality to the FCC and to elected officials. Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that helped organize Wednesday's protest, said in a blog post that the protest generated an additional 777,364 comments to the FCC.

If Internet providers are allowed to charge web companies for faster service, it would lead to higher costs being passed on to consumers and could prevent startups from competing with larger companies that can afford to pay for faster service, advocates say.

Internet providers have opposed greater oversight, arguing that it would deter them from further investing in their broadband networks. They've been supported by many Republicans in Congress.

The surge in comments to the FCC was also driven by a viral video on net neutrality this summer by late-night comedian John Oliver, which caused the FCC's website to briefly crash.

The FCC is expected to decide on its proposal by the end of the year. A court decision in January threw out the FCC's previous net neutrality rules, forcing the agency to come up with new ones.