Dems Seek FCC IG Investigation of Net Neutrality Docket

A group of Democratic senators want the FCC's Inspector General to investigate the fraudulent comments filed in the FCC's net neutrality docket.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has said that the FCC had intentionally erred on the side of inclusiveness in the docket, but the senators want to know why almost 10 million fraudulent were allowed to be included.

The request, from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), and Ed Markey (Mass.) came following reports that the New York State Attorney General issued subpoenas in its investigation into the fraudulent comments.

Related: House Dems Seek Net Neutrality Docket Answers

They said the New York AG has identified 14 "groups of interest" in the investigation, including trade groups and political firms, and argue the FCC should also be interested, saying those groups "have a previous track record of concerning practices in their effort to thwart net neutrality."

They said they are also unclear as to the FCC's level of cooperation with efforts by others to investigate the docket.

“Despite concerns that the rule-making process was subverted by fraudulent comments and manipulated by special interests, including possible Russian interference, the FCC has seemingly ignored the issue, failed to provide answers to Congress, and dismissed public concerns,” they wrote in the letter to FCC AG David Hunt. “In order to resolve lingering questions, we ask that your office investigate the FCC’s handling of the fraudulent comments and look into its cooperation with other investigations into the matter.”

They want the IG to find out when the FCC became aware of the fraudulent comments, what the FCC's policies are about investigating such comments, whether the FCC is fully cooperating with the AG investigation, whether it is cooperating with a separate Government Accountability Office investigation, and whether the FCC has been handling FOIA requests in a reasonable and timely manner.

Last December, FCC general counsel Tom Johnson told the New York State attorney general that the FCC was not providing information for his investigation into fake net-neutrality comments, saying those comments did not affect the review and challenging the state's ability to investigate the feds.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.