A report released Thursday by the New York Attorney General’s office said the nation’s largest broadband companies funded a secret campaign to generate millions of comments to the FCC, providing “cover” for the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules.
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The New York Attorney General’s Office released a report Thursday showing that major U.S. telecom companies pumped millions of dollars into a “secret campaign” that flooded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with millions of fake comments in an attempt to influence the agency’s 2017 repeal of net neutrality protections.
The product of a multi-year investigation, the new report details an industry-backed effort to create the appearance of “widespread grassroots support” for then-FCC chair Ajit Pai’s broadly unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules.
“In 2017, the nation’s largest broadband companies funded a secret campaign to generate millions of comments to the FCC. Many of these comments provided ‘cover’ for the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules,” the investigation found. “To help generate these comments, the broadband industry engaged commercial lead generators that used prizes — like gift cards and sweepstakes entries — to lure consumers to their websites and join the campaign.”
“However, nearly every lead generator that was hired to enroll consumers in the campaign, instead, simply fabricated consumers’ responses,” the report states, noting that 8.5 million fake comments in favor of net neutrality repeal were generated by the effort.
The report declines to directly name the companies that funded the project, but it does disclose that the $4.2 million campaign was run through Broadband for America (BFA), a nonprofit organization whose members include AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter and Comcast.
“The New York Attorney General’s Office has exposed a massive fraud financed by the nation’s biggest phone and cable companies to drown out authentic public support for net neutrality,” said Craig Aaron, co-CEO of advocacy group Free Press. “This investigation shows how low the industry will stoop to undermine even the most basic and benign safeguards.”
“The Biden FCC has the opportunity and responsibility to restore net neutrality and the authority the agency needs to regulate the nation’s biggest cable and phone companies,” Aaron added.