NY AG wants net neutrality vote delayed to investigate fake comments submitted to FCC
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) on Monday called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold off on its vote to repeal net neutrality pending an investigation into alleged fake comments in the agency’s public record on the 2015 regulations.
Appearing in a press conference alongside Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Schneiderman said that his office had found about 1 million comments in the FCC’s net neutrality docket that may have been submitted using stolen identities. Schneiderman said that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, has so far rebuffed his requests for assistance in the probe.
“I’m asking Chairman Pai to join us in our effort to investigate millions of fake comments and massive identity theft perpetrated against Americans,” he said.
The prosecutor added that he has contacted the FCC nine times about the investigation before finally receiving an offer of assistance from the agency’s inspector general’s office that morning.
A group of 27 senators also wrote to Pai on Monday asking that it delay its vote on the rules over concerns about the public comment record.
The chairman announced a plan in April to repeal the rules that restrict internet service providers from discriminating against certain websites. Over the summer, the FCC was flooded with nearly 22 million comments when it sought public input on the proposal.
A number of studies have found that many of the comments may have been submitted by bots in an effort to influence the public record.
“This is unacceptable,” Rosenworcel, who supports the net neutrality rules, said on Monday. “The integrity of the public record matters. The FCC needs to get to the bottom of this mess. No vote should take place until a responsible investigation is complete.”
A spokesperson for Pai said the comments being investigated had little sway over the chairman’s decisionmaking.
“At today’s press conference, they didn’t identify a single comment relied upon in the draft order as being questionable,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
This story was updated at 2:55 p.m.