House Dems Push Pai for Answers on DDOS Non-Attack

Four House Democrats are pressing FCC chair Ajit Pai for answers about the FCC's mis-identification of a flood of net neutrality comments as a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, specifically when he and others at the FCC found out about the inaccurate diagnosis, suggesting the chairman was either wantonly disregarding the Congress and public, or derelict in his duty, depending on when he learned of the attack was not an attack.

That came in a letter Tuesday (Aug. 14) from House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Communications ranking member Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), and committee members Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.).

Last week, the FCC Inspector General released findings that a cyberattack didn’t crash the system. Rather, it was a flood of comments spurred by comedian John Oliver that the FCC was unprepared to handle.

Related: FCC IG Finds Alleged DDOS Attack on Net Neutrality, Wasn't

The Dems suggested that there were only two options, that Pai already knew it was not a DDoS attack but had not shared that information, or that he was ignorant of it, which they suggested would be "dereliction of duty."

“Given the significant media, public, and Congressional attention this alleged cyberattack received for over a year, it is hard to believe that the release of the IG’s Report was the first time that you and your staff realized that no cyberattack occurred,” the Democrats wrote in the letter to Pai. “Such ignorance would signify a dereliction of your duty as the head of the FCC, particularly due to the severity of the allegations and the blatant lack of evidence. Therefore, we want to know when you and your staff first learned that the information the Commission shared about the alleged cyberattack was false.”

The legislators said they were troubled that Pai had "allowed the public myth created by the FCC to persist and your misrepresentations [that it was a DDoS attack] to remain uncorrected for over a year."

Related: Wheeler Says There Was No DDOS Attack Cover Up

They want some answers, mostly about when Pai and staffers first knew it was not such an attack, and why Pai did not immediately correct previous public statements to the contrary, either publicly or privately to concerned legislators--like themselves--or both.

They want those answers by Aug. 28.

Net neutrality activists have been skeptical about the DDoS assertion, suggesting the problem may just have been the FCC's inability to handle the flood of legitimately filed--if not all legitimately sourced--comments, potentially denying some voices their say on whether to roll back the regs, voices the FCC is supposed to weigh in its decisions.

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.