FCC Won't Assist Investigation Of Fake Net Neutrality Comments

The Federal Communications Commission won't cooperate with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation into fake comments, including comments apparently generated by bots, regarding net neutrality.

FCC general counsel Thomas Johnson said in a letter sent to Schneiderman last week that he has not presented any evidence that the alleged fake comments had any impact on the agency.

New York's top law enforcement official is probing problems with comments submitted to the FCC regarding its plan to repeal the net neutrality rules. Among other well-publicized allegations, up to 1 million comments may have come from bots that impersonated people, and around 400,000 may have come from Russia.

The FCC plans to vote Thursday on whether to repeal repeal rules that prohibit broadband providers from blocking or throttling service and from charging higher fees for prioritized delivery. Last week, Schneiderman -- along with 28 U.S. senators and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel -- publicly urged the FCC to hold off on a vote because of questions about the public commenting process.



Johnson suggests that the issues Schneiderman is investigating will not affect the FCC's vote. "The Commission does not make policy decisions merely by tallying the comments on either side of a proposal to determine what position has greater support, not does it attribute greater weight to comments based on the submitter's identity," he writes.

He also says that a request by Schneiderman for commenters' IP addresses could compromise people's privacy. "If members of the public feared that their personal IP addresses could be provided to a state's chief legal officer in connection with an ongoing investigation, they could be deterred from participating in the robust public dialogue surrounding important rulemakings," he writes.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who supports the net neutrality rules, criticized the agency's decision.

"There is evidence in the FCC’s files that fraud has occurred and the FCC is telling law enforcement and victims of identity theft that it is not going to help," she stated. "Failure to investigate this corrupted record undermines our process for seeking public input in the digital age. This is unacceptable."

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