FCC ignored fraudulent net neutrality comments, New York attorney general says

Eric Schneiderman says that thousands of Americans were impersonated with fake comments to the FCC

By Matthew Rozsa
November 22, 2017 2:25PM (UTC)
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FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, Federal Communication Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai speaks during an open hearing and vote on "Net Neutrality" in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is openly calling out the Federal Communications Commission for not caring that thousands of people were submitting fraudulent comments regarding the potential repeal of net neutrality, something he compared to "identity theft on a massive scale."

"The process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity," Schneiderman wrote in a public letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai published on Medium.

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"For six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities," Schneiderman explained. Yet as the New York attorney general's office tried to investigate the case, it found that the FCC was not willing to help them. This was in spite of New York requesting access to logs and other records at least nine times over the course of five months, including three requests in October.

As Schneiderman explained, the FCC opened up a public comment process over net neutrality in April in compliance with a law which requires federal agencies to accept public comments on proposed rules changes. The comments process was subsequently corrupted, however, "by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules."

In addition to effectively drowning out legitimate feedback on the issue of net neutrality, Schneiderman pointed out that "many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale."

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Although Schneiderman acknowledged in his letter that he was personally in favor of net neutrality, he made it clear that this was about an issue more important than that. Pai, who is a staunch opponent of net neutrality, announced earlier this week that he will ask the FCC to repeal the net neutrality regulations imposed by President Barack Obama, during its meeting on Dec. 14.

The repeal of net neutrality is likely to proceed regardless of how this case is resolved, given that President Donald Trump and Pai have been dead set on eliminating it since the start of the administration.


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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