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Rosenworcel, NY AG: FCC Must Investigate Net-Neutrality Comments, Delay Vote

New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman and FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC's network-neutrality comment process was corrupted and, at a joint press conference in New York, called for state and federal investigations and delaying the Dec. 14 vote to roll back the net-neutrality regs.

Rosenworcel, a big opponent of the chairman's proposal, discussed the half million Russian comments, invoking foreign power meddling in the government as one reason to delay the net-neutrality vote -- she had others. Schneiderman said they could not say whether the Russian government was involved, suggesting that would need more cooperation from the FCC to determine.

They said the FCC needs to cooperate with state investigations, said there needed to be a federal investigation, and the FCC needs to delay the vote.

Various net-neutrality groups have been using the docket issues to try to get FCC chair Ajit Pai to delay the Dec. 14 vote on rolling back the net-neutrality rules.

Schneiderman is investigating the net-neutrality comment process, seeking input on how many New Yorkers had their identities misused to file comments they did not file or take positions they did not support.

Related: New York AG Investigating Fake Net Neutrality Comments

He said Monday that 50,000 such New Yorker misuses had already been identified via an online tool launched last week. He called the docket a threat to the regulatory system. He also said Pai's FCC had not been cooperating with his investigation, although he had repeatedly asked for its help. He said the FCC's Inspector General had finally agreed, at 8 a.m. Monday morning, to help in the investigation. But he also called for that federal investigation of the docket and process.

The FCC recently made it easier to analyze and search that comment database by divvying it up into tranches of comments. Pai signaled when mass comment and fake ID issues were raised that the FCC was going to err on the side of inclusion, but Rosenworcel and the AG clearly thought the process was too inclusive when it came to those trying to game the system.

Schneiderman said the internet docket is the "crime scene" of the 21st Century and that he had serious concerns about the integrity of the rulemaking process, which he said also has been deeply corrupted.

Schneiderman said that in addition to using made-up names, at least 1 million of the fake comments used real people's stolen identities.

He said that given what he saw as Pai's stonewalling of his investigation, he had decided last week to expand his investigation without the FCC's help by seeking online input and making it easier to check the FCC docket for misuse.

The AG received over 3,000 responses. Among the discoveries, he said, was a fake comment under the name of one of his own staffers.

Rosenworcel said she was speaking out in service of the common good. But what was not good, was the net neutrality record, which had a fatal flaw that had to be fixed before a vote. She said among the problems was the half million comments that came from Russian e-mail accounts, as well as the many falsified e-mail addresses and the alleged DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack still being investigated by the GAO.

"The record is hard to trust," she said, which is why she said she has called for public hearings.

She also called on AGs in other states to join the effort to investigate. "The process is broken," she said, adding that the FCC should not move forward until a "credible" investigation is completed.

Pai has proposed reclassifying ISPs as Title I information services not subject to common carrier regs, and to eliminate the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, leaving the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to enforce against anti-competitive, or false and deceptive practices, with ISPs required to disclose those practices up front.

While ISPs could technically block and degrade, all the majors have pledged not to do so. Paid prioritization is a greyer area given that business model could have some pro-consumer applications, including prioritizing collision avoidance info among connected cars, a point paid prioritization fans have made during the debate over the rules, old and new--some version of the FCC transparency rule remains in order to get ISPs on the record about how they are managing their networks or treating information.

Schneiderman said the initial FCC response to his request for help in the investigation was to call it a "transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama Administration's heavy handed regulations to gain publicity for himself."

Schneiderman called that hyper-partisan attack and an "inappropriate evasion of the issues."

The response Monday was much the same. “At today’s press conference, they didn’t identify a single comment relied upon in the draft order as being questionable," said an FCC spokesperson. This is an attempt by people who want to keep the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed Internet regulations to delay the vote because they realize that their effort to defeat the plan to restore Internet freedom has stalled.”  

The FCC has pointed out that it is not the volume of comments that will determine how it rules, but only the content of the relevant comments. The only issue would be whether the volume of fake comments drowned out any of those relevant comments, given that there were over 22 million to consider given that volume.