Net neutrality avalanche looks more like a slush pile

19 September 2014 by Steve Blum
, ,

I’m still getting my head wrapped around the concept of three million comments. That’s how many individual bits of advice regarding net neutrality that the FCC received, as of Monday’s deadline to submit.

No single commissioner or, indeed, all the members of the commission working together can possibly read through the entire pile. Even if they divvied it up and only dwelt on each submission for ten seconds, it would take the five commissioners more than a year of work each to get through their respective in-boxes. That’s assuming they work full time on it and don’t do anything else. Ain’t gonna happen.

Most of the comments are likely either form letters or relatively brief and minor variations on one theme or another. “I want to watch Netflix”, say. Or “Don’t let the dingo eat the baby!“.

There’s also a ponderous stack of weighty arguments submitted by corporations, lobbyists, advocacy groups and public agencies (but not the California Public Utilities Commission) on every side of the issue. No need to read it all: just weigh it.

So with the help of machine analysis and some sturdy truck scales, a reinforced platoon of FCC clerks might be able to sort through it all in a couple of months. The result? A few graphs and tables summarising opinions and a thick memo full of pithy quotes.

And enough statistics for anyone, on any side of the issue, to be able to say “look, millions of people agree with me”. Leaving lobbyist-in-chief Tom Wheeler free to stay behind closed doors and cut whatever deal suits him and his fellow suits.