FCC Blames Net-Neutrality Glitch on Budget Woes

An onslaught of comments crashed the agency’s website.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gives testimony before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on 'Review of the President's FY2015 funding request and budget justification for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).'on March 27, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
July 15, 2014, 1:27 p.m.

The Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion is blam­ing a lack of fund­ing from Con­gress after its web­site crashed on Tues­day due to an on­slaught of out­raged com­ments on net neut­ral­ity.

An agency spokes­man said Con­gress has failed to give the agency enough money to up­grade its in­form­a­tion-tech­no­logy sys­tems. The of­fi­cial said ad­di­tion­al fund­ing could help pre­vent sim­il­ar back­logs and en­sure that the pub­lic is able to share its views with the agency.

The tech­nic­al prob­lems forced the FCC to post­pone the dead­line for the first round of com­ments on the net-neut­ral­ity pro­pos­al un­til Fri­day at mid­night.

Re­pub­lic­ans seem more in­clined, however, to move the agency’s budget in the op­pos­ite dir­ec­tion.

The House is set to vote on an ap­pro­pri­ations bill Wed­nes­day that would slash $17 mil­lion from the FCC’s budget. The fund­ing level is $53 mil­lion be­low the pres­id­ent’s re­ques­ted budget.

Pres­id­ent Obama is­sued a veto threat on the bill, which would also cut fund­ing to oth­er agen­cies such as the IRS.

At the com­mit­tee vote last month, Rep. An­der Cren­shaw, the chair­man of a House Ap­pro­pri­ations sub­com­mit­tee, said cuts to vari­ous agen­cies were ne­ces­sary be­cause of a con­gres­sion­al budget cap. He said the le­gis­la­tion is “suf­fi­cient to fund pri­or­ity pro­grams while re­du­cing fund­ing for activ­it­ies that are not es­sen­tial to the op­er­a­tions of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment or that have a his­tory of wast­ing tax­pay­er re­sources.”

The FCC spokes­man said the agency has now re­ceived a total of 780,000 com­ments on the con­tro­ver­sial net-neut­ral­ity pro­pos­al.

The FCC first en­acted net-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tions in 2010, but a fed­er­al court struck them down earli­er this year. The agency is now try­ing to re­work them in a way that can sur­vive fu­ture court chal­lenges. But the pro­pos­al from Chair­man Tom Wheel­er has sparked a massive pub­lic back­lash be­cause it would al­low In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders to charge web­sites for faster ser­vice in some cases.

The FCC’s web­site also crashed earli­er this year after comedi­an John Oliv­er blas­ted the pro­pos­al and urged In­ter­net “trolls” to vent their rage to the FCC.

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