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Published on May 30th, 2017 | by Amber Healy

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Hypocrisy in DC: Net Neutrality Edition

This might come as a shock, but there’s a new tale of hypocrisy out of Washington.

Ajit Pai was mad a few weeks ago when fans of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight used a specially-made website to submit comments on net neutrality. He called it an attack and said it crashed the Federal Communication Commission’s website. He said the actions of the commenters – er, perpetrators behind the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack— were “deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host,” adding that the “actors were not attempting to file comments themselves but rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC.”

(Oliver’s website, www.gofccyourself.com, is still up and running, by the way.)

Pai, remember, is now the commissioner of the FCC and has recently presented to the committee his roadmap for overturning net neutrality protections, regulations put into place by the previous committee under the previous administration to ensure all internet users from all ISPs had free, unfettered and equal access to websites without undue interference from competing providers.

But if Pai really doesn’t want any “external actors” mucking up the public comments for his new proposed changes – essentially undoing ALL the previous protections – maybe he needs to reconsider his previous arguments.

It turns out, lots of people filing comments in favor of Pai’s new proposal, and against net neutrality protections enshrined now under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, are dying to show their support. Or, y’know, already died and had no real say about it but their names are showing up anyway.

Cory Doctorow writes at BoingBoing that half a million identical comments were filed on the FCC’s public comment website by dead people. And the FCC isn’t lifting a cold, dead finger to do anything about it.

“The FCC says it will not discard these comments and Comcast is so desperate to stop people from finding out whether their identities are forged in one of the comments that it committed copy fraud to shut down a site that helped them do just that,” Doctorow writes. The names appear to come from a voter registration breach.

What’s more, the text in the 50,000 letters “appears to be drawn from a 2010 press release from a conservative, anti-net neutrality group called Center for Individual Freedom,” the article continues. “Other suspect that the telecom lobby American Commitment, which used misleading emails to solicit nearly 2 million anti-net neutrality comments in 2014, may be behind the fraudulent comments.”

Doctorow previously reported that Pai insists on keeping the bots-named-for-dead-people statements in the big pool for consideration, even with names like Joseph Stalin and Wonder Woman, because, as an FCC spokesperson says, he’d rather “err on the side of inclusion.”

There’s a great explanation of what the FCC wants to change – other than everything—over on The Verge that’s well worth reading and an easy way to get up to speed on the issue.

But something else to consider as the FCC accepts comments through the middle of July: Some broadband providers are begging the FCC to keep the current net neutrality regulations in place.

Not all Americans have the choice of their broadband provider and, as a result, can’t change ISPs if they don’t like the company currently providing their service. A full 10% of the country doesn’t have access to high-speed internet, but “Even in places where there are multiple high-speed internet providers, the markets are often carefully carved up so that there’s little to no overlap between competitors,” Kate Tummarello writes for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. These ISPs essentially have a monopoly in their service region and there’s little to nothing to be done. Eliminating net neutrality regs will further stymie the ability of consumers to receive fair, unfettered coverage.

“…the large incumbent ISPs received subsidies to build their networks in the first place and those ISPs get to access phone companies infrastructure at preferential rates set by the government…. On top of that, state governments often work to protect those incumbents,” she writes. “Several states have laws on the books that create barriers for local governments who want to build broadband infrastructure to give their residents more ISP options,” but even that might not be enough, to say nothing of the fees incurred from changing providers.

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I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.


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