Rep. Pallone Wants Investigation of Bogus Net Neutrality Comments

The FCC's network neutrality docket continues to draw a crowd of critics. The latest is Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Pallone has called on the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate whether any federal law has been broken in the filing of fake comments using stolen identities, as some have claimed.

Pallone said he was also worried that some "unknown parties" may be trying to influence federal policy.

That came in a letterto attorney general Jeff Sessions and acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.

Pallone wants them to investigate net neutrality activist group Fight for the Future's assertion that at least 14 people had told the FCC that their identities had been used to file comments without their permission, as well as that some 450,000 identical comments were submitted by an "unknown party" that may have been using info gained via data breaches.

"Federal law prohibits knowingly making any materially false statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch," Pallone's office said. 

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He said attention was urgently needed given that the docket is public and the names and addresses of those who did not file the comments remained available publicly.

“I am deeply concerned that the sheer number of these potentially false comments suggest a coordinated attempt to materially mislead the FCC, and therefore a coordinated attempt to break federal law,” Pallone said. “I urge you to take swift action to investigate who may be behind these comments and, if appropriate under applicable federal law and regulations, prosecute the people behind these fraudulent comments.”

He asked for a status report a month from the June 28 letter date.

At presstime, the docket contained over 5 million comments.

(Photo via New America's FlickrImage taken on Feb. 14, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

John Eggerton

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.