Technology NY AG report finds 18 million FCC net neutrality comments were fake
Critics take aim at SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper and other satellite constellations
A coalition of policy groups is asking the FCC to hold off on new approvals for satellite constellations such as SpaceX's Starlink and Amazon's Project Kuiper.These critics cite the risk of catastrophic satellite collisions, concerns about cybersecurity and worries about environmental and health impacts — including impacts on astronomical observations and the beauties of the night sky.
Before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted toat the end of 2017, the agency collected public opinion on the policy. In all, it said it received nearly 22 million comments. Over the years, there's been a fair amount of discussion surrounding where many of those came from, with a from that same year suggesting that only six percent of the comments were unique.
Following years of investigation, the Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has published aon exactly what happened in 2017. The investigation found the "largest" broadband companies funded a secret astroturfing campaign to push the FCC toward repealing net neutrality. At the time, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon (Engadget's parent company) were in favor of repealing the policy. The industry hired several third-party firms to build public support for their decision. Ostensibly, those companies were supposed to convince people to support the broadband industry with incentives like gift cards and prizes. Instead, they simply submitted 8.5 million fake comments. The attorney general has fined three of the companies involved in sending in those comments $4.4 million.
FCC slaps robocaller with $225 million fine as part of broader crackdown
It's the biggest fine in the agency's history, as the new acting FCC chairwoman takes on robocallers.The agency alleges in a statement Wednesday that the telemarketers illegally spoofed phone numbers to sell short-term, limited duration health insurance plans, which falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance companies, such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group.
On the other side, the FCC received another 9.3 million fake comments in support of maintaining net neutrality. According to the report, most of those came from a single college student, who was 19 at the time. They used automated software to generate the responses. All told, of the more than 22 million comments the FCC received on the matter, James says more than 18 million were fake. Put another way, more than 80 percent of the input the agency collected to inform its decision didn't come from real people.
Supreme Court Allows FCC to Move Forward With Changes to Media Ownership Rules
The decision is a big win for the FCC and reverses a finding from the 3rd Circuit that the agency didn’t adequately consider the effects on media outlet ownership by women and minorities.The FCC’s ownership rules limit the number of radio stations, TV stations and newspapers that one entity can own in any single market. It’s obligated to review these rules every four years and repeal or modify any that is no longer “necessary in the public interest as the result of competition.
"The public record should be a place for honest dialogue, but today's report demonstrates how the record informing the FCC's net neutrality repeal was flooded with fraud,"said in a statement to Engadget. "This was troubling at the time because even then the widespread problems with the record were apparent. We have to learn from these lessons and improve because the public deserves an open and fair opportunity to tell Washington what they think about the policies that affect their lives."
Under, the FCC frequently fought any attempts to address the flawed net neutrality commenting process. At the start of the state’s investigation, former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman . Even as recently as last year, the FCC fought that would verify the source of the comments.
FCC commissioner pushes for Big Tech to pay to close digital divide .
Brendan Carr wants companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to contribute to a federal subsidy program to help get more Americans online.In an op-ed published in Newsweek last week, Carr outlined a new approach for funding the FCC's Universal Service Fund, which provides money the federal government uses to help subsidize the build-out of broadband in rural areas, phone and broadband service for low-income Americans, and internet access for schools and libraries.