Senators urge FCC to delay net neutrality vote

Ajit Pai the head of the US Federal Communications Commission appointed by president Trump in January. Andrew Harrer  Bloomberg

Ajit Pai the head of the US Federal Communications Commission appointed by president Trump in January. Andrew Harrer Bloomberg

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says tens of thousands of fake comments were posted to the FCC's website earlier this year on its plan to roll back net neutrality rules, which guarantee equal access to online content by internet providers.

Twenty-seven Senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to postpone its vote on repealing net neutrality rules.

He said that his office's own review of the public filings showed that about 1 million comments may have used names that were in fact stolen identities.

Among other things, Schneiderman cited a Broadband for America-funded study that found almost 8 million comments had been submitted using temporary or disposable email addresses, and almost 10 million comments involved duplicate email and home addresses.

Although Schneiderman said he has received more than 3,200 complaints, including 350 in NY, from those who say comments were made in their or a relative's name without their consent, the FCC is refusing to provide any records or data to help with the investigation. "In less than a week, we've received more than 3,000 responses from across the country and they continue to come in", Schneiderman said. Last month, Schneiderman criticized the FCC for its failure to cooperate in his office's ongoing investigation into the fake comments, which it began in June, making repeated contacts to the FCC over the subsequent five months. One of the people whose name was used to submit a fake net neutrality comment included Schneiderman's assistant press secretary, he said. Speaking at a conference in February, he said that two years after the rules were put it in place, "it is evident that the FCC made a mistake (which) injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market, and uncertainty is the enemy of growth".

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The Attorney General's Office has been investigating the cases for six months. Supporters of the FCC's move to do away with network neutrality rules-mainly big ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, and the GOP politicians who love them-will very likely say that Schneiderman and Rosenworcel are simply declaring a mistrial (so to speak) based on a technicality.

Under Pai's proposal, the Obama-era rules would be reversed and ISPs would only have to disclose blocking or throttling.

"Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC can not conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public's views on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote", Hassan and 27 other senators - including Sens. But Schneiderman said that "unless we get the information from the FCC, it's anecdotal evidence".

"This is an attempt by people who want to keep the Obama Administration's heavy-handed internet regulations to delay the vote because they realize that their effort to defeat the plan to restore internet freedom has stalled", he said in a statement. "There needs to be federal investigation", he said.

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