New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and an FCC commissioner are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to suspend its vote on net neutrality while one million allegedly fake comments on the proposed repeal are investigated.
Schneiderman on Monday urged the FCC to fully cooperate with his office’s investigation.
“The Internet is the public square of the 21st century,” Schneiderman says. “Unfortunately, the Internet is also the crime scene of the 21st century.”
This comes as the FCC Inspector General’s office signaled its intent Monday to assist with Schneiderman’s inquiry into fake comments submitted during the net neutrality comment process.
“At 8:20 a.m. this morning, knowing that we were holding this press conference, the FCC’s Inspector General’s office finally emailed my team offering their assistance in our investigation,” says Schneiderman. “This is a big step but, given the FCC’s conduct over the past eight months we remain skeptical and will continue to call on the Commission for full cooperation, including an appropriate federal investigation, into the corruption of the rulemaking proceedings.”
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel says she supports net neutrality but the issue here is the integrity of the public comment process.
“We are about to make sweeping changes to the way that every American experiences the Internet. And right now at the FCC we have more than 23 million comments in our record. That’s unprecedented, that amount of participation,” Rosenworcel says. “But we also have real problems with the comments that have been filed. As many as a million comments may involve the fraudulent use of names and stolen identities, including tens of thousands of individuals here in New York.”
Schneiderman describes one of the fake comments.
“My assistant press secretary Rachel had a phony comment submitted under her name using the address of her childhood home,” Schneiderman says.
“We also have nearly half-a-million comments that have been filed from Russian email addresses,” says Rosenworcel. “And, at the same time, we have 50,000 consumer complaints that are missing from our record, that have been filed elsewhere at the FCC.
On November 21, Schneiderman published an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, saying his office has been investigating fake comments for six months. Prior to releasing the open letter, Schneiderman says his office had contacted the FCC and its top officials at least nine times to request assistance in its investigation. Schneiderman and Rosenworcel also called for the FCC’s planned December vote on the repeal of net neutrality to be halted while the fake comments are investigated.
“You cannot conduct a legitimate vote on a rulemaking proceeding if you have a record that is in shambles, as this one is.”
Rosenworcel does not think the FCC should move forward until a credible investigation is completed.
“So I call on my colleagues to halt this vote until we get to the bottom of what has happened with these stolen identities and the quality of our public record,” Rosenworcel says. “The integrity of the public record is at stake, and the future of the Internet depends on it.”
An FCC spokesman says the vote will proceed as scheduled on December 14.
Last week, Schneiderman launched a web page for New Yorkers to check if their identities were misused. Schneiderman says his office has received more than 3,200 reports of misused identities since the launch.
Meanwhile, 27 Democratic senators penned a letter Monday to the FCC chairman, expressing concern over reports about the fake comments. This letter includes signatures from New York’s Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. They, too, are calling on the FCC chairman to delay the planned December 14 vote.