Lisa McCormick joined a chorus of American voices criticizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the to repeal net neutrality protections, which she called “an end to more than a decade of work to protect broadband users from unfair practices by Internet service providers.”
The new rule would reclassify high-speed broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service,” on which the FCC would be forbidden from imposing neutrality obligations.
In a 3-2 vote today, the FCC approved a measure to remove the tough rules it put in place just two years ago that prevented internet providers from blocking and throttling traffic and offering paid fast lanes that restrict access to publicly available information on the open Internet.
The agency also removed the Title II designation, which classified internet providers as common carriers.
The new rules allow internet providers to block, throttle, and prioritize content if they publicly state that they’re going to do it.
“It paves the way for an Internet that works more like cable television, where wealthy insiders decide which speakers can reach a broad audience,” said McCormick. “A pay-to-play Internet means that smaller sites and apps, or startups without major funding, will be forced to negotiate with multiple ISPs to avoid their content being buried, degraded, or even blocked. This can only harm consumers and limit competition.”
Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, and it’s essentially how the internet has worked since its inception. The principle was born as regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies voiced concern about what broadband companies could do with their power as the gateway to the internet – blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example.
As expected, the vote was three in favor and two against, split along party lines.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai received the support of both Republican commissioners for his plan, which he made public the week before Thanksgiving. Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the plan.
The deliberations were interrupted for several minutes when, according to Pai, security advised them to take a recess.
Supporters of net neutrality have also said that without regulation, a greater socio-economic digital divide could develop, creating a class of information “haves” and “have nots.”
In 2015, the FCC approved a set of regulations on those companies, known as internet service providers. Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called it a victory, saying the rules allowed the commission to act as an Internet “referee.”
McCormick, a New Jersey Democratic activist, previously demanded that the FCC delay action to investigate net neutrality comments posted under stolen identities of two million real Americans.
“The Oregon attorney general and chief legal authorities of 17 states and the District of Columbia have asked the FCC to wait until we can get to the bottom of these comments left by impostors, who were discovered by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman,” said McCormick. “In a letter sent to the regulatory agency, 18 attorneys general from around the country called on the FCC to delay its vote on net neutrality rather than rush ahead to repeal these protections.”
Schneiderman said over 5,000 people have filed reports with his office regarding identities used to submit fake comments to the Federal Communications Commission on the repeal of net neutrality, on which the FCC is scheduled to vote tomorrow, December 14, 2017.
“It is unconscionable that the Trump-appointees at this federal agency are plowing ahead with a scheme to destroy freedom and equality, but to do it under the cloud of fabricated identities and lies suggests that this political agenda is part of a criminal conspiracy,” said McCormick.
“Millions of fake comments have corrupted the FCC public process – including two million that stole the identities of real people, a crime under New York law,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Yet the FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation. As we’ve told the FCC: moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda. The FCC must postpone this vote and work with us to get to the bottom of what happened.”
An analysis shows that as many as two million comments misused the identities of real Americans, including over 100,000 comments per state from New York, Florida, Texas, and California.
“I am 72 years old. I don’t understand how this happened but I am angry about it. People should be held accountable,” said a citizen from Morristown, NJ, whose identity was hijacked to post comments in favor of the move, which would allow internet service providers to deprive consumers rapid access to some data transmitted over broadband.
“I am filing this complaint on behalf of my mother, an elderly woman. This is definitely a false submission to the FCC,” wrote a resident of Red Bank, NJ, whose parent was a victim of identity theft as part of the scheme.
Those are just two of nearly 50,000 fake comments attributed to New Jersey residents expressing support for the action, which would rob citizens and give new rights to corporations.
This map highlights the number of fake comments submitted using stolen identities by state.
Despite widespread evidence that the public comment process was corrupted, the FCC’s General Counsel has said that the agency will not cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation into the impersonation of New Yorkers, and that it will move forward with tomorrow’s scheduled vote. In a letter to the FCC, the New York Attorney General repudiates the excuses for refusing to cooperate with an investigation of illegal conduct that could constitute, among other violations, criminal impersonation under New York law.
“Moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of the notice and comment process mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act and reward those who perpetrated this fraud in service of their own hidden agenda,” Attorney General Schneiderman wrote. “None of the assertions in your letter justify the FCC’s refusal to share evidence of who committed these illegal acts.”
McCormick urged citizens to check whether they were victims of identity theft, for the purpose of posting public comments regarding net neutrality rules wrongfully without their consent.
“People should search the FCC’s public comment website and tell the New Jersey Attorney General if any comments misuse your name and address,” said McCormick. People can access that website at: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/.
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