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Senators, NY AG Demand Delay Of Net Neutrality Vote Over Torrent Of Fake Comments

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and a FCC commissioner are calling on the agency to postpone its vote on the issue while his office investigates the use of bots.

Senators, NY AG Demand Delay Of Net Neutrality Vote Over Torrent Of Fake Comments
[Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel held a news conference today calling on the FCC to delay its December 14 vote to dismantle Obama-era network neutrality rules established by the commission in 2015.

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Schneiderman’s office has launched  investigation into alleged fraudulent comments filed with the FCC both for and against dismantling the rules, and found that up to a million of the 23 million total comments received by the FCC may be fraudulent. Many of the comments, Schneiderman said, were filed using false identities, including those of minors and deceased people.

The AG’s office set up a web portal where anybody can enter their name to see if it was used fraudulently. One of the bots, as Schneiderman tweeted, even used the name of his assistant press secretary:

Schneiderman says his office requested the actual comments records from the FCC numerous times but so far the FCC has not complied. Schneiderman called the situation an “unprecedented abuse of Americans’ right to have input into the policy making process.”

The FCC acknowledges the problem but points out that many of the fraudulent comments come from people or groups who support the current net neutrality rules. The agency has also said it “lacks the resources” to investigate every one of the comment records.

“Our process for serving the public interest is broken,” Rosenworcel said. “We’ve got to fix it before we proceed with a vote.” Supporters of the FCC’s move to do away with network neutrality rules–mainly big ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast, and the GOP politicians who love them–will very likely say that Schneiderman and Rosenworcel are simply declaring a mistrial (so to speak) based on a technicality.

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But if enough pressure builds in the Congress, the FCC may be forced to delay the December 14 vote. Already Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) is circulating a letter with 27 other Democratic senators requesting that the FCC postpone.