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WASHINGTON — Grassroots organizations on Tuesday applauded the American public for its passionate support of real Net Neutrality protections. In an unprecedented outpouring of concern, millions of Americans have submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission rejecting Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to allow priority Internet access for a few rich companies.

The agency's docket for public input reached its halfway point as the initial comment period drew to a close. The influx of public comments was so heavy on Tuesday that the FCC’s site sputtered off and on, prompting many in the D.C. area to deliver comments by hand. The public may continue to submit comments through Sept. 10.

This is the greatest public response to any rulemaking in the FCC's history. More than 1 million people had petitioned the agency for strong Net Neutrality protections within weeks of a January 2014 court decision that overturned the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. During the agency’s May 15 meeting, more than a million people submitted additional petitions.

That number has grown significantly since then. On Friday, the FCC said an additional 647,000 comments had been entered into the docket. Hundreds of thousands of comments are expected in the weeks to come. The vast majority of the comments submitted so far urge the agency to scrap its pay-for-prioritization proposal and implement real Net Neutrality rules.

“In close to a decade of fighting for the open Internet, I’ve never seen more awareness and enthusiasm about this issue,” said Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron.  “Millions of Internet users have flooded the agency with support for real Net Neutrality. And almost no one outside FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's office is advocating for his pay-to-play proposal. Wheeler claims he supports the open Internet, but the rules he’s proposing would allow rampant discrimination and fast lanes for the fortunate few. That’s totally unacceptable, and it’s why so many everyday Internet users are so upset. The best and only path forward for Wheeler is to reclassify Internet providers as common carriers.”

“Anything less than Title II classification is a retreat, an assault on the dynamic nature of the Internet, and a complete denial of the public interest,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, who is now a special adviser to Common Cause and a member of the Free Press board. “Standing up against the corporate takeover of the Internet may not be easy, but it is essential.”

“If the president is serious about fighting inequality, he can't be part of AT&T, Comcast, and big telecom's plan to let the Internet discriminate,” said CREDO Political Director Becky Bond. “This is an opportunity for the president and his FCC to stand up for American consumers who overwhelmingly want to preserve the open Internet.”

“Demand Progress members have spoken out in support of Net Neutrality more than 500,000 times in the last six months, joining millions of other Americans,” said Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal. “This is because they understand the importance of maintaining an open Internet where everybody can participate on equal terms — without fear of being blocked or having their sites slowed to a crawl if they refuse to pay extortive fees to the ISPs. It's time for the FCC to realize that their plan simply doesn't achieve this and choose to protect the Internet with common-carriage regulations.”

“The public outcry has been clear in its opposition to FCC Chairman Wheeler's proposal to allow cable companies to force websites big and small to pay in order to get their content to load faster,” said Daily Kos Campaign Director Rachel Colyer. “The FCC must heed the call of the public to protect an open, equal Internet by treating it as a public utility. We urge Chairman Wheeler to listen to the voices of Americans — not the voices of Big Telecom — by holding public field hearings on the future of the Internet.”

“With this unprecedented public response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler now has an obligation to abandon his flawed plan and truly protect Net Neutrality by pushing forward with reclassification and treating Internet service providers like any other utility company,” said Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlain.

“A handful of already hated cable companies want to make every American’s Internet experience slower, less reliable and more annoying, gutting the very principle that has made the Internet such a great place to do business and speak freely,” said Fight for the Future Co-Director Tiffiniy Cheng. “The fact that the FCC would even consider letting this happen is an outrage.”

“Net Neutrality has made the Internet a level playing field for all voices, allowing Black bloggers, activists, and entrepreneurs to flourish online despite being blocked out of ownership and participation in traditional media,” said ColorOfChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson. “That’s why thousands of ColorOfChange members have raised their voices in demanding strong open Internet protections and calling out deceptive arguments from the telecom lobby. The FCC must protect the open Internet if it wants to protect diversity online.”

“The unprecedented outcry from nearly a million everyday Americans supporting Net Neutrality makes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's choice crystal clear: He can side with everyday Internet users or with telecom companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner,” said Keith Rouda of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The right thing for the FCC to do is to listen to those at and across the Internet who are calling for the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a public utility like water — equally accessible to all.”

“The FCC is proposing a plan that would allow Internet providers to give preferential treatment to some websites over others,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Activist April Glaser. “When new innovative websites can't get high-quality service, they'll be less likely to reach users and less likely to succeed. The result: a less diverse Internet. That's why we join over a million Americans in speaking out: It's our Internet, and we're going to fight to protect it.”

“As a candidate back in 2007, then-Senator Obama pledged to protect Net Neutrality,” said Progressives United Executive Director Cole Leystra. “But now President Obama may break his promise by throwing more power to big corporate telecommunications companies. But President Obama and Chairman Wheeler can still do the right thing and stand up for Americans who count on the Internet for their everyday lives.”

“The public has spoken in record numbers, and their voice is clear,” said SumOfUs Campaign Director Paul Ferris. “The FCC needs to act now to protect this shared vision of an equal and open Internet, not the two-tiered Internet demanded by big corporations.”

“President Obama appointed Tom Wheeler as chairman of the FCC, and must fulfill his promise to the American people to save the Internet as a level playing field for all,” said Civic Action Executive Director Anna Galland. “The only way to do that is to treat the Internet as the public utility it is.”

“For decades, the world looked to the U.S. for inspiration when it came to open technologies and the policy frameworks behind them,” said Access Advocacy Director Josh Levy. “Now Internet users and governments around the world are looking to the FCC to set a strong precedent by preserving the open Internet by reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.”

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