Millions of comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission as it sought public feedback on the agency's plan to roll back "net neutrality" rules were fake, NY prosecutors claim.
Under the new proposal, the FCC would do away with rules barring internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to online content.
More than 5,000 people have reported that comments on the proposed repeal of net neutrality were falsely made under their names, according to the probe. For those who may not be fully aware of the situation, net neutrality refers to the 2015 decision to reclassify ISPs under Title II regulations of the 1934 Telecommunications Act. The agency is expected to pass the new rules in a partisan vote Thursday in Washington.
The FCC is also attempting to change the classification of ISPs to content providers, a less regulated category.
"Literally no one other than the giant cable companies think that it's a good idea to let the giant cable companies dictate the speed and price of the content you view on the internet", says Representative Drew Hansen (D-Bainbridge Island), who is introducing HB 2282, a bill created to protect consumers in the state from said giant cable companies. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Colorado, asked Pai this week to delay the vote and give Congress a chance to weigh in on the issue.
Apple Inc's co-founder Steve Wozniak and internet pioneers Tim Berners-Lee and Vinton Cerf joined several other technology titans in a letter on Monday asking the FCC to cancel the vote.
Last but not least, the very inventors of the internet are against Pai's plan.
Net neutrality: Protests as US regulator ends laws
Before you run to the nearest hardware store to start building your own network, politicians, celebrities and activists have a message: call your representative in Congress and call members of the FCC, and urge them to save net neutrality.
"Perhaps everyone will see reason and vote in favor of consumer advocates and the many, many disadvantaged groups who will be harmed by the removal of net neutrality, from average consumers to companies like Amazon and Facebook that depend on free access to the Internet", Hansen says. Based on his investigation, Schneiderman said that 50,000 to 100,000 Pennsylvania comments to the FCC may have used stolen identities. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times published earlier this month, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel begs the public to "stop [the FCC] from killing net neutrality", calling Pai's plan "a lousy idea".
This is insane. Two million people have had their identities stolen in an effort to corrupt our public record. Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, has long faced criticism for his corporate ties.
The net neutrality repeal is just one part of the Pai's deregulatory agenda.
He supports Pai's plan, arguing net neutrality is holding the internet back. And yet, in less than 24 hours we are scheduled to vote on wiping out our net neutrality protections. "I certainly would not rule that out".
Many comments for and against net neutrality rules are identical because advocacy groups urged people to sign form letters, so the text of a comment alone isn't enough to determine if it was submitted by a real person.