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05 December 2017, 02:10 | Floyd Cook
In Focus: Net neutrality
In a surprise twist, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Monday that FCC officials charged with investigating incidents of fraud have agreed to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation into potentially millions of fake comments submitted using the FCC's website this year. Numerous comments, Schneiderman said, were filed using false identities, including those of minors and deceased people.
Although Schneiderman said he has received more than 3,200 complaints, including 350 in NY, from those who say comments were made in their or a relative's name without their consent, the FCC is refusing to provide any records or data to help with the investigation.
The page "allows anyone that thinks their identity may have been stolen to check the complete file of FCC comments and see if a fake submission was made in their name". By Monday, Schneiderman said, they had received more than 3,000 responses - including, he said, from a man who said his deceased mother's name had been used.
Specifically, the groups propose the FCC delay the vote until a pending court case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - the en banc review in Federal Trade Commission v. AT&T Mobility - resolves.
Schneiderman said the FCC agreed on Monday to assist in the probe. The Democratic commissioners are against Pai's plan to roll back net neutrality rules.
He also called on the FCC to delay a planned December 14 vote on chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to roll back numerous existing rules, which now ban internet providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or from selling "fast lanes" so content providers can reach consumers more quickly.
"The raw number is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record", Pai said a July FCC meeting. Verizon has been a proponent of the FCC's move to repeal net neutrality, and new FCC chairman Ajit Pai is a former Verizon lawyer, so protesting Verizon stores makes about as much sense as anything else.
The prosecutor added that he has contacted the FCC nine times about the investigation before finally receiving an offer of assistance from the agency's inspector general's office that morning.
The spokesperson said that Schneiderman had not identified as fake any comments that were used as part of Pai's proposal. While Pai contends the regulations were hurting ISPs, opponents say it crucially prevented them from imposing restrictive measures such as speed throttling or content preference. But Schneiderman said that "unless we get the information from the FCC, it's anecdotal evidence". "This is an attempt by people who want to keep the Obama Administration's heavy-handed Internet regulations to delay the vote because they realize that their effort to defeat the plan to restore internet freedom has stalled". "There needs to be federal investigation", he said.
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