Russians interfered in the FCC’s decision process leading to its rollback net neutrality, according to a statement from a dissenting FCC Commissioner. Unfortunately, those issues were largely ignored by the FCC leading up to the repeal.
As the FCC ficially submits its order to repeal net neutrality in the United States, an ugly issue is surfacing. According to a bombshell statement from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Russians likely interfered in the FCC’s public forums and public commenting phase. Other aspects the decision-making process may have also been impacted.
Unfortunately, the issue was recognized but wasn’t investigated. Here’s what Rosenworcel stated:
Importantly, this is coming from an FCC Commissioner. The admission strongly indicates that Russian interference issues were actively discussed within the agency — and ultimately ignored.
In a follow up statement to Digital Music News, FCC Chief Staff Travis Litman also acknowledged that Russian interference issues were acknowledged by lead FCC commissioner Ajit Pai. But nothing was done about it, and nothing is being investigated, according the agency.
“We are unaware any investigation on the FCC’s behalf into this matter, though the GAO has committed to investigate other problematic aspects the FCC’s record,” Litman emailed.
In an ideal scenario, the FCC considers public opinions to inform their policy decisions. Accordingly, the FCC allowed Americans to comment on the proposed net neutrality rollback starting late last year. Unfortunately, that process was soon riddled with fake comments, including many from obviously fake people (for example, ‘Barack Obama’).
As the commenting process continued, the record became overwhelmed with obviously fake feedback, rendering the entire commenting phase useless. It was effectively hijacked, making genuine debate and feedback impossible.
That cacophony may help to explain why the FCC seems completely divorced from public opinion on the matter.
The FCC may have effectively been walled into an online bubble, mistakenly believing that fake commenters represented actual Americans. Another possibility is that the fakery simply drowned out genuine dissent, further blinding the agency to actual opinion.
Indeed, lead FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai has appeared completely detached from howls protests from Americans. Even worse, Pai was arrogantly dismissive them.
That disconnect ultimately led to a massive pushback from the public and various U.S. states.
As this morning, 24 U.S. state attorneys general are suing the FCC to restore net neutrality, while 3 states (California, Washington, and Nebraska) have introduced legislation to protect net neutrality, and governors in 5 states (Montana, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Vermont) have signed Executive Orders barring ISPs from instituting fast lanes or throttling traffic.
All which is the kind civil division that Russian interference aims to attain. So maybe the results speak for themselves.
+ 7 U.S. States (Representing Nearly 25% the Country’s Population) Have Passed Measures Protecting Net Neutrality
Whether the FCC was destined to repeal net neutrality anyway is another question.
But the vote was close: 3-2, with one swing vote potentially maintaining the net neutrality status quo. All which suggests that the commissioners may have been blinded by an avalanche comments pushing for a repeal — even though most Americans disagreed with the repeal.
Rosenworcel was one the dissenters (Mignon Clyburn the other). Leading the dismantlers was head commissioner Ajit Pai, who led the charge to rip apart ‘Obama-era regulations’ and ‘restore internet freedom’ (incidentally, the name the FCC’s ficial rollback document is exactly that).
That is widely regarded as a juicy handout to mega-ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, though the forceful pushback could represent a serious setback for those corporations. Part the reason is that ISPs will soon face state-by-state regulations regarding net neutrality, a compliance patchwork that ultimately introduces serious costs.