The Federal Communications Commission's online commenting system has had some well-publicized snafus since Chairman Ajit Pai set out a plan to gut the net neutrality rules.
On May 8, hours after HBO comedian John Oliver called for people to support net neutrality by submitting comments to the FCC, the agency's Web site crashed. The FCC said the crash was caused by a denial-of-service attack, but some advocates are skeptical of that explanation. The group Fight for the Future called on the FCC to allow its logs to be reviewed by independent researchers.
Democratic Senators Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) also asked the FCC to disclose details about any malicious traffic and its efforts to combat Web attacks.
Today, Senators Wyden, Schatz and three other Democrats -- Al Franken (Minnesota), Patrick Leahy (Vermont) and Ed Markey (Massachusetts) -- called on the FBI to investigate FCC's site crash of May 8.
"The public comment period associated with the FCC's rulemaking authority is a critical part of the regulatory process and the primary way for the American people to make their voices heard," the lawmakers say in a letter to acting director Andrew McCabe.
"Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious. This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC's rulemaking proceedings."
In 2015, the FCC classified broadband as a utility service and imposed some common carrier rules on Internet service providers, including prohibitions on blocking or throttling content and on paid fast lanes. Pai proposed that the FCC categorize broadband as an "information" service -- even though an appellate court ruled in 2014 that the FCC has no power to impose net neutrality rules on providers of information services.
The site crash isn't the only controversy surrounding the net neutrality comments to the FCC. The agency also has received as many as 450,000 anti-net neutrality comments submitted that appear to have been submitted by bots. The names on those comments appear to have been scraped from databases -- possibly including voting records.
Twenty-five people who say their names were fraudulently used to submit fake comments have asked Pai to investigate and to remove the comments from the public records.
"Whoever is behind this stole our names and addresses, publicly exposed our private information without our permission, and used our identities to file a political statement we did not sign onto," they say in a letter to Pai. "While it may be convenient for you to ignore this, given that it was done in an attempt to support your position, it cannot be the case that the FCC moves forward on such a major public debate without properly investigating this known attack."