The Federal Communications Commission voted last Thursday to repeal 2015 net neutrality rules, which required internet service providers, or ISP’s, to offer equal access to web content without being able to block certain websites, slow data transmission or give priority quality to higher paying customers.
The decision was made despite a letter sent to the FCC from 18 attorneys general around the country, asking to delay the decision to investigate millions of apparently fake anti-net neutrality comments posted to the FCC’s public comments section.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been leading the investigation on the fake comments for seven months and set up a website where individuals can type in their information and see if false comments were posted to the FCC using their identity.
WCHL’s Victor Lewis searched himself on the website and found that he was among those impersonated.
Lewis says he is a passionate advocate for net neutrality, and has been vocally supportive, even attending rallies in the past. The comment posted to the FCC using Lewis’ identity suggests the opposite.
The comment reads: “Before leaving office, the Obama Administration rammed through a massive scheme that gave the federal government broad regulatory control over the internet. That misguided policy decision is threatening innovation and hurting broadband investment in one of the largest and most important sectors of the U.S. economy. I support the Federal Communications Commissions decision to roll back Title II and allow for free market principles to guide our digital economy.”
Additionally, the posted comment used a jumble of parts of Lewis’ past information such as a past work address and an unrelated past city to submit the comment.
“This address is pulled from my personal history, I recognize it, and that feels strange. It looks like it was pulled to try and make it seem legitimate, and I look at it and I know that it’s not,” said Lewis.
While it’s unclear where these fake posts are coming from, Schneiderman says it’s an attempt to affect FCC decisions with fake information.
According to the letter sent to the FCC from the 18 attorneys general, either the commission relied on falsified public comments to reach its conclusion to repeal net neutrality, or the commission gave less weight to the submitted public comments, undermining the democratic process.
Schneiderman released a video shortly after the ruling saying that the FCC did not respond to his requests for help on an investigation after waiting months to hear back.
“I called on the FCC to delay today’s vote and help us with an investigation into the corrupted rule-making process. FCC leadership pushed ahead with their vote today anyway and ignored the massive scam that corrupted the public record,” Schneiderman said.
Now that the repeal of net neutrality regulations passed, many are concerned about how exactly internet access will be affected.
Schneiderman said the repeal of net neutrality will allow ISP’s to control what we see, do and say online.
“This new rule would enable ISP’s to charge consumers more to get access to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade high-quality video streaming until and unless someone pays them more money to clean it up. Even worse, today’s vote would enable ISP’s to favor certain viewpoints over others even if they promise not to do any of these things today,” said Schneiderman.
Lewis says that his main concern regarding a lack of net neutrality is surveillance from corporations.
“Making the internet itself or specific websites into subscription based services is not the threat; the entire reason that this is important is because in order to sort traffic, and prioritize it, you have to know what that traffic is. And as data comes from the nebulous internet into your home, it’s transmitted via packets of data, and right now all those packets all have equal priority, they all just come in the order in which they are sent and received, and in order to prioritize it you have to open those packets,” said Lewis.
According to Lewis, ending net neutrality would give internet service providers the legal ability to conduct surveillance of their customers’ data use, ending the era of streaming movies and shows for free online.
“Under these laws, or rather under the repeal of these laws, when ISP’s have more control and are able to inspect your data as it passes through them, you will be not be able to do things that are even a hint illegal on the internet. And I’m not saying that this is important because I want to continue doing illegal activities, what I’m saying is that heavy surveillance is always wrong, especially in a society where we are trying to push each other to be better,” said Lewis.
In Schneider’s video, he says he plans to file a lawsuit against the ruling.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday that Democrats plan on using the Congressional Review Act to introduce a bill that would overturn the FCC’s decision.
Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey announced on Thursday following the FCC vote that he and 19 other senators would be introducing that bill.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein responded to WCHL’s request for comment with a statement calling the internet the core infrastructure of the 21st century, opposing the FCC’s decision and saying he is taking a hard look at legal options to protect the North Carolina people.