Pai to Hill: Tongue Was Tied on DDOS Non-Attack

FCC chair Ajit Pai defended his decision not to talk about the findings of an FCC inspector general report that the FCC had misled Congress about the source of problems with the FCC's network neutrality comment docket.

That came in a Senate Commerce Committee FCC oversight hearing Thursday (Aug. 16).

The IG concluded that the FCC's former chief information officer (CIO) had incorrectly identified the problem as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, when it was instead a 2017 reprise of the flood of comments that had brought down the FCC system in 2014, prompted both times by calls for input from comedian John Oliver.

Related: House Dems Push Pai on DDoS Non-Attack

Pai had echoed that DDoS attack explanation after having been assured by his chief of staff, having talked with the CIO, that it has been such an attack, at least to a 99% certainty. He said he also initially thought it was probably the same kind of floor of comments spurred by Oliver in 2014.

At the hearing, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, pointed out that he and other senators and activists had challenged the DDoS explanation at the time and wondered why, if Pai also had initially thought the 2017 problems were tied to Oliver, he did not back away from the DDoS explanation.

A defiant Pai said that while he had growing doubts about DDoS, the IG had requested that he not talk about it before the report was issued, given that it could interfere with a potential federal prosecution, which he said he decided was the best course of action even though he wanted to correct the record.

Schatz said he recognized Pai was in a tough position, but he still found how Pai handled it "tough to digest."

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.