Error forces FCC to rerelease open Internet comments

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Everyone who has spent time pouring over the nearly 4 million comments the Federal Communications Commission has received concerning its open Internet proceeding is going to have a chance to do it again in the new year.

FCC announced Tuesday that it would release a new set of XML files after 680,000 comments weren’t included the file that was released Oct. 22, which contained all of the comments the agency collected via email, through its ECFS system, CSV file upload and paper letters.

In a blog post co-written by FCC Chief Information Officer David Bray and Special Counsel for External Affairs Gigi Sohn, FCC said the missing comments were due to an error with Apache Solr, the tool the agency used to create the initial XML files.

“We plan to fix this problem by issuing a new set of XML files after the New Year with the full set of comments received during the reply period,” the post read. “Despite the fact that this group of comments was not transferred to the XML files, our review indicates that these files were uploaded to ECFS for public review.”

The missing comments came to light last week when Jeff Lyon, the chief technology officer of open Internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, wrote a lengthy missive on user-driven news website Reddit’s technology subforum claiming FCC ignored hundreds of thousands of pro-net-neutrality comments, which then lead to some reports that the greater public was anti-net-neutrality.

Along with the forthcoming XML release, FCC also corrected the number comments received by email versus those received by CSV upload or through ECFS.

A correction to an Oct. 22 blog post now reads:

The number of comments received during the reply comment period was initially reported erroneously in this post as 725,169 comments received through ECFS and CSV file uploads and another 1,719,503 comments received via the email address, for a total of 2,444,672 comments. The correct number of comments the FCC received during the reply comment period is 1,393,835 received through ECFS and CSV file uploads and another 1,158,014 comments received via the email address, for a total of 2,551,849 comments.

FCC also made it a point to say that its ECFS system is badly aging and was not built to handle the massive influx of comments brought on by the open Internet proceedings.

“We appreciate the public’s passion and interest in this important proceeding, and hope this also points to the importance of modernizing the Commission’s legacy information systems to provide greater visibility and transparency to the public on impactful issues,” Wednesday’s blog post read.

The new XML file will be released “after the new year,” according to the agency.

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Agencies, Department of Defense (DOD), Federal Communications Commission, net neutrality
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