Bizarre Fight Commences Over Who 'Won' Latest Net Neutrality Comment Round

from the doesn't-matter dept

Back in October, we pointed out the pointlessness of focusing on who sent more comments to the FCC over net neutrality, as there appeared to be a whole lot of astroturfing and misleading tactics being used to ratchet up the counts. That didn’t mean that the commenting and looking at the information wasn’t useful — it is — but there was little value in a purely “numbers” based focus on how many comments were filed from those “for” or “against.” With so many coming from various online forms, the weight they would have on the final FCC decision is about as close to nil as possible.

However… an interesting sort of fight has broken out about all of this. The Sunlight Foundation released an analysis this week of the second round of FCC comments on net neutrality (technically these are supposed to be “in response” to the first round, but they were basically just another chance to say the same things all over again. The Sunlight Foundation noted that this time, an anti-net neutrality group (the same one we discussed as our example of totally misleading crap being pushed in the FCC’s direction) apparently convinced many hundreds of thousands of people to send in one of its incredibly misleading comments, all of which will be promptly ignored. The Sunlight Foundation’s analysis claimed that the majority of the comments in round two came from this group, American Commitment, which completely incorrectly told people that net neutrality was about a “left-wing extremist…” “takeover of the internet.” Which, frankly, is bullshit. You can disagree with net neutrality without lying, but American Commitment didn’t seem to be able to do that. Still, its lies certainly did convince lots of people to click “send” on its outrage-o-matic machine.

American Commitment then took the Sunlight Foundation’s announcement and literally declared itself the winner of who filed the most comments. Except… not only were there clear limitations in the data, which the Sunlight Foundation got from the FCC’s public release, many on the pro-net neutrality side started pointing out that the numbers are clearly incorrect. They know how many letters were sent from their side — and the numbers from the FCC’s release (which Sunlight used) appeared to vastly undercount the actual filings.

Fight for the Future then dug into the data itself and argued that the FCC and Sunlight Foundation screwed up in counting the comments, “dropping at least 244,881 pro-net neutrality comments.” The Sunlight Foundation shot back that it thinks Fight for the Future made its own mistakes in the data analysis.

Finally, I’ve spoken to multiple people inside the FCC who are now admitting that something clearly went wrong with the data that it released — so it’s going back and doing a recount itself. We should know more on the results soon, but it sounds like there’s a good chance that the original data that Sunlight relied on may have had some problems.

There are two big takeaways from this, neither of which are really related to all the sniping going on:

  1. The exact count still doesn’t fucking matter. This isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about doing what’s right for the future of the internet and the American public who uses it.
  2. The FCC’s technology needs a massive upgrade. The technology that the FCC uses to bring in these comments is decades old and is simply not designed (at all) for this level of public participation. And the problem there is Congress, which refuses to allocate any budget at all to the FCC to improve its own computer systems. This was part of the reason why the whole system went down during the first comment period. And no matter what you think of the FCC, at the very least we should be able to agree that better transparency and openness is important, and to do that, the FCC should have computer systems that were at least built in the modern era.

Other than that, this whole numbers game of who hit the outrage-o-matic button harder seems like a distraction from the main point: the future of the internet.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: american commitment, fight for the future, sunlight foundation

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bizarre Fight Commences Over Who 'Won' Latest Net Neutrality Comment Round”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
10 Comments
Andrew Nortonsays:

I know I had a conversation with Gigi (https://twitter.com/GigiBSohnFCC/status/497534413354586113) and David Bray (https://twitter.com/fcc_cio/status/511685826208874497) about my comments not showing up on the system. Even now, search for “Andrew Norton” and you won’t find it under that proceeding (you have to know the confirmation number to find it the second time I submitted it)

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Report this ad??|??Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (175)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (22)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (5)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (26)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
06:31 Net Neutrali-what? AT&T's New Streaming Service Won't Count Against Its Broadband Caps. But Netflix Will. (24)
06:23 Telecom's Latest Dumb Claim: The Internet Only Works During A Pandemic Because We Killed Net Neutrality (49)
13:36 Ex-FCC Staffer Says FCC Authority Given Up In Net Neutrality Repeal Sure Would Prove Handy In A Crisis (13)
06:27 Clarence Thomas Regrets Brand X Decision That Paved Way For The Net Neutrality Wars (11)
06:17 The FCC To Field More Comments On Net Neutrality. Maybe They'll Stop Identity Theft And Fraud This Time? (78)
08:56 AT&T, Comcast Dramatically Cut Network Spending Despite Net Neutrality Repeal (16)
06:18 Ajit Pai Hits CES... To Make Up Some Shit About Net Neutrality (24)
06:24 Mozilla, Consumer Groups Petition For Rehearing of Net Neutrality Case (22)
06:49 AT&T Exec Insists That No Broadband Company Is Violating Net Neutrality Even Though AT&T Is Absolutely Violating Net Neutrality (18)
06:45 Shocker: ISPs Cut Back 2020 Investment Despite Tax Breaks, Death Of Net Neutrality (61)
06:28 Ajit Pai Whines About The Numerous State-Level Net Neutrality Laws He Just Helped Create (47)
06:37 States Rush To Protect Net Neutrality On Heels Of Court Ruling (19)
06:21 Former FCC Boss Wheeler Says New Court Ruling Won't Stop Net Neutrality (14)
10:50 Court Says FCC Can't Stop States From Protecting Net Neutrality (63)
09:37 One More Time: Just Because The Internet Didn't Explode Doesn't Mean Killing Net Neutrality Was A Great Idea (45)
More arrow