Wednesday is the last day people can post comments to the Federal Communications Commission about a sweeping new plan intended to roll back rules of net neutrality and an open internet.

Hours before the deadline, the FCC had received 22 million comments critical of its vote in May to crimp net neutrality—the idea of preventing internet service providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites or subjecting sites and/or applications to extra fees in order to reach the internet audience.

Currently, U.S. law denies service providers, such as telecommunications companies AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, the ability to arbitrarily manipulate consumers’ access to internet content.

The Guardian reports:

The FCC, led by Republican chairman Ajit Pai, voted in May to start the formal process of unwinding the 2015 rules. Those rules treat regulation of internet more like that of a public utility such as water or electricity and prohibit broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast from creating a tiered system of access.

Under the current net neutrality rules, it is illegal for companies to offer a high-speed lane to corporations able to pay more or to effectively slow a rival service.

The FCC’s proposal asks whether the agency should eliminate the rule banning ISPs from creating fast lanes (or slow lanes) that could favour one service over another, which critics say could allow them to pick winners and losers online. Pai has said the regulations stifle corporate innovation and investment and are not necessary to guaranteeing an “open internet”.

Major cable companies have applauded the plan and say they are encouraged by Pai’s intention to take a “weed-whacker” to the net neutrality rules and replace them with “light-touch” regulation. …

Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, said: “The unprecedented number of comments in the FCC docket underscores what everyone already knows: people freakin’ love the free and open internet and are willing to fight tooth and nail to defend it.

“With the FCC public comment period closing, all eyes shift to Congress: will our lawmakers represent us and speak out against the FCC’s plan to gut protections for free speech and innovation, or will they use this opportunity to launch a cynical attack on internet users’ rights under the guise of ‘compromise’ legislation?

According to disclosure forms filed with Congress, in the first three months of 2017, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast spent $11.2 million lobbying against net neutrality.

The FCC is scheduled to meet again Sept. 28, but its vote may take place after that.

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