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Internet users are complaining more about net neutrality-related issues since the FCC voted to repeal the existing net neutrality rules earlier this month, according to the FCC's consumer complaint data.

Why it matters: The FCC allows consumers to submit complaints about a variety of telecom-related problems, from receiving unwanted phone calls to billing fraud. After adopting net neutrality rules in 2015, the FCC added net neutrality to the list of possible gripes, such as slowed-down internet service or content being blocked. The FCC can use those complaints to spot trends or even launch investigations.

Expand chart
Note: Data includes all consumer complaint tickets related to "Open internet/net-neutrality"; Data: Federal Communications Commission; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

The details: According to the data (via the FCC's Consumer Complaint Center), people appear to file more net neutrality complaints when the topic is in the news and people are paying more attention to their internet performance. For example:

  • The complaints spiked to around 11,000 in May 2016, shortly before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FCC's rules that the telecom industry had sued to stop.
  • Consumers filed more than 6,400 complaints in October 2016, shortly before the 2016 election. Republicans had made clear they would weaken the rules if they took office.
  • A small uptick of complaints took place in April, the same month FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released an initial proposal to roll back the rules.
  • As of Friday, consumers filed 2,388 in December, a sharp increase over the 157 complaints filed in October. The FCC voted to reverse the net neutrality rules on Dec. 14.

How it works: When a consumer files a complaint, the FCC serves the complaint to the telecom provider in question. That company is required to respond to the consumer within 30 days, and must provide the FCC a copy of that response.

  • The FCC is not obligated to act on "informal" complaints (which can be filed for free online), but can choose to look into issues as they arise.
  • The FCC has a separate process for "formal" complaints, which usually involve lawyers, filing fees and specific procedural rules. (More details on the process can be found here.)

Between the lines: It's often difficult for consumers to pinpoint the cause of internet connection issues. Net neutrality supporters will say a rise in informal complaints indicates bad behavior by internet providers without the rules. While the FCC isn't required to investigate such complaints, the agency's new transparency requirements could encourage companies to be forthcoming in their responses to them.

Go deeper

Updated 49 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.

Australian Open organizers reverse "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirt ban

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai during the 2020 Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo: Bai Xue/Xinhua via Getty Images

Australian Open organizers on Tuesday reversed a ban on t-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai following widespread criticism.

Why it matters: Tennis Australia's announcement came less than 24 hours after the governing body defended the decision to ask fans last Friday to remove "Where is Peng Shuai?" t-shirts, citing ticket policy prohibiting political clothing, per the BBC.