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James, in report, says broadband industry faked millions of comments against net neutrality

May 10, 2021 6:33 am

Fortune magazine reports that on May 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report about how the broadband industry submitted millions of fake comments in favor of the 2017 repeal of net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission in 2017 repealed the Obama-era rules that barred internet service providers from slowing or blocking websites and apps or charging companies more for faster speeds. The broadband industry lost appeals in court, but the presidency of Republican Donald Trump gave opponents of net neutrality a majority at the FCC. The Republicans could easily overturn the rules, but had to go through the public hearing and comment period to get there. “Americans voices are being drowned out by masses of fake comments and messages being submitted to the government to sway decision-making,” said James, announcing the report. “Instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities, and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the polices and laws that govern our lives." Nearly 18 million of the 22 million comments submitted to the FCC were fake, the attorney general's office found. A single 19-year-old in California made more than 7.7 million pro-net neutrality comments. An anti-net neutrality group, Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million creating more than 8.5 million of the fake FCC comments. Much of the news media, at the time, reported that there were many public comments in favor of repealing net neutrality, when actually there were few such comments, compared to the overwhelming public opinion in favor of the internet regulation. The report said that the goal of the broadband industry campaign was to give the FCC chair at the time, Ajit Pai, “volume and intellectual cover” for the repeal. Read more about this story in Fortune magazine.