The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that the deadline to submit comments regarding net neutrality has been pushed back due to overwhelming interest from the public.

The debate on net neutrality - the concept that all web traffic should be treated equally - centres around rules that could allow internet service providers (ISPs) to create "fast lanes" for websites willing to pay for faster data speeds.

Almost 700,000 comments have so far been submitted by companies, advocates, lawmakers and citizens to the FCC. With the deadline for comments originally set for Tuesday, a late surge in traffic caused the FCC's website to crash, resulting in the deadline being delayed until midnight on 18 July.

"Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comment through our electronic filing system," said Kim Hart, a spokesperson for the FCC.

"Please be assured that the Commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record."

Internet under threat

Net neutrality regulations were first enacted by the FCC in 2010, however a ruling earlier this year by US lawmakers in favour of the US ISP Verizon resulted in such rules being made redundant.

In order to protect net neutrality, campaigns have been set-up focused at lobbying the FCC to prevent ISPs and mobile carriers from creating a two-speed internet.

On Monday, the Internet Association - a group of major US technology firms that includes Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter - sent demands to the FCC vocalising their support for the principle of net neutrality.

"The Commission must act to protect its open and neutral architecture, which is the force behind the internet's success," the group said in a statement.

"The internet is threatened by broadband internet access providers who would turn the open, best-efforts internet into a pay-for-priority platform more closely resembling cable television than today's internet."

Following the passing of the deadline for the first round of comments on Friday, a second round of comments on the original submissions will then open. A final ruling by the FCC is then expected to be made by the end of the year.