Sep 4, 2014 · 2 minutes

The deadline to tell the FCC how you feel about its net neutrality proposal is looming, and a number of companies are planning to modify their websites to raise awareness of the issue, with the hope that it will convince visitors to protest the astonishingly controversial plan.

The Verge reports that the companies, including Reddit and Mozilla, will add widgets and banners to their websites on September 10 as part of the campaign. These widgets will display a loading animation to show consumers what might happen if Internet service providers are allowed to create a tiered Internet that offers different transfer speeds to different customers.

The FCC's website has already been flooded with comments against its proposal. An analysis of the comments by the Sunlight Foundation showed that just one percent of commenters oppose net neutrality; the rest are in favor of the principle, or at least of preventing ISPs from creating a tiered Internet. And, surprisingly, many of the comments were written by real, living people:

While form letters do appear to make up the majority of the comments, it’s actually surprising how many of the submitted comments seemed not to have been driven by form letter writing campaigns. In previous analyses of high-volume dockets, we’ve found that it’s not unusual for form letter contributions to make up in excess of 90 percent of a docket’s total submissions, with the percentage of comments coming from form letter campaigns being well-correlated with the total number of comments received.
This campaign might increase the number of comments generated by automatic forms, but the fact that many of the existing comments were written by people who went directly to the FCC's website instead of limiting their outrage to the click of a button presented by some organization clearly shows that this is an important issue many consumers truly care about.

Not that the FCC didn't already know that. Its comments website has been overwhelmed with traffic in the past, and it had to extend the deadline to comment after it realized that so many people wanted to share their thoughts on the controversial proposal. Actually reading through the comments shows that people are really passionate about the topic, as I covered in July:

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’stake-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 even more people will be directed to comment on the FCC's proposal. Maybe after so many comments the agency will reconsider the proposal and defend the free Internet a bit better. Maybe it won't. But either way, all of these comments show just how much people care about the Internet -- or at least about the speed with which their favorite websites load.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]