Courtesy State of Oregon
SALEM — Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and 17 other attorneys general are urging the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote to end a rule that prohibits Internet providers from making it more difficult or expensive to access one website over another.
The attorneys general, all Democrats, stated in a letter that they are concerned about the amount of falsified comments that were made to the FCC in support of the rule change.
The five-member commission, three Republicans and two Democrats, is scheduled to vote on the proposal Thursday, Dec. 14.
“Changing the rules around net neutrality will have major implications for commerce and almost every aspect of modern life. Before that is allowed to happen, we must get to the bottom of whether fraud was committed in the FCC comment process on behalf of unsuspecting Americans,” Rosenblum said in a statement Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Rosenblum spearheaded the letter and obtained signatures from the attorneys general of California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Office is investigating whether commenters illegally used the identities of New Yorkers to give feedback on net neutrality.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, one of two commissioners expected to vote against the rule change, also has looked into the authenticity of comments. She told NPR’s ‘The Takeaway’ Tuesday, Dec. 12 that among 23 million comments about the proposed rule change, she and Schneiderman had found 1 million used stolen identities. About 500,000 of the comments came from Russian addresses, and 50,000 consumer complaints were omitted from the record of comments, she told the radio program.
Schneiderman released new information Wednesday, Dec. 13, that his office had identified a total of 2 million fake comments on net neutrality to the FCC using stolen identities of Americans across the country.
The office has a search engine where residents can look to see if their identity was used fraudulently.
Supporters of the proposed rule change argue that ending net neutrality will benefit consumers by spurring more competition between broadband providers.
But Rosenworcel noted on “The Takeaway” that half of U.S. households have only one choice for a broadband provider.
“A careful review of the publicly available information revealed a pattern of fake submissions using the names of real people. In fact, there may be over one million fake submissions from across the country,” the letter by the attorneys general states. “This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale — and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning.”
The attorneys general said “it’s essential that the commission gets a full and accurate picture of how changes to net neutrality will affect the everyday lives of Americans before they can act on such sweeping policy changes.”