More than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments were Likely Faked

I used natural language processing techniques to analyze network neutrality comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission from April-October 2017, and the results were disturbing. NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions.

The FCC is about to repeal net neutrality. Here’s why Congress should stop them.

[Commentary] In the rush to eliminate network neutrality protections, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai failed to hold a single public hearing, and has ignored the chorus of entrepreneurs, investors, businesses and citizens asking him to stop. Citizens across the political spectrum are now looking to their elected representatives to speak out on their behalf and call on Chairman Pai to cancel the vote. Chairman Pai’s plan is a radical break from FCC history and a fundamental departure from how the Internet has operated for the past 30 years.

NY AG Open Letter to the FCC

[Commentary] Dear Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai:

How the FCC Could Roll Back Hard Fought Civil Rights Advances

[Commentary] Last week the Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, announced two orders that will be voted on later in Nov, which would roll back hard fought civil rights advances — at a time when our educational and economic opportunities, as well as political participation, are increasingly dependent upon communications infrastructure and technology. 

How One Little Cable Company Exposed Telecom’s Achilles’ Heel

[Commentary] The details of the network neutrality rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in February 2015 were not important to AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Spectrum, or CenturyLink. What was important was the idea that any part of the government might have enforceable oversight over their data transmission services or charges. That’s what they can’t stand; that’s what they would do anything to avoid. And that’s what they are working to undo: the FCC’s classification of them as “common carriers” under “Title II” of the Telecommunications Act. That classification gave the FCC the legal authority to say something to the carriers about treating internet traffic fairly. No classification, no “net neutrality” rule. The trouble for the carriers is that the classification carries with it the risk that their businesses will be treated, someday, as the utility services they are. Net neutrality: not risky. Classification: risky. If people begin noticing that there’s no competition, that Americans are paying too much for too little, and that the entire country is suffering as a result, that’s a big problem for Big Cable.

An Open Application Process is the Way to Build Better Broadband

[Commentary] The SHLB Coalition has offered our own proposal to Congress that would focus on deploying high-capacity broadband to and through anchor institutions to the surrounding rural community. Our “Rural American Broadband Connectivity” (Rural ABC) plan is fiscally prudent, promotes “dig once” and streamlined infrastructure policies, and is intended to ensure that high-speed broadband is available for public use in every single American community. Most importantly, it calls for a variety of financial mechanisms (including tax credits, grants and loans) and an open application process. Internet2 has also released an significant paper that documents the important role of the research and education networks in connecting anchor institutions.

[John Windhausen is the executive director of the SHLB Coalition]

Ajit Pai Is Siding With the Oligarchy — and Misleading Trump’s Base

[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai wants to characterize this battle as one between “the people” (who love the internet) and “the government” (which, in his view, has been bossing “the people” around). But he’s missing a giant piece of the puzzle.

There are actually three players on the battlefield, not two: the people, the government, and particularly powerful private individuals. The whole idea behind the democratic enterprise is to keep the triangle balanced: not too strong a government, not too powerful a group of oligarchs, and plenty of opportunity for individuals. Chairman Pai is putting his thumb decidedly on the scale in favor of the oligarchs, and it’s a risky move.

[Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School]

Hypocrisy at the Federal Communications Commission

[Commentary] If the public had any doubt as to whether Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was going to follow his own regulatory philosophy consistently during his term, one of the votes April 20 confirms that he chooses to follow his own principles only when it suits the powerful companies and political interests that back him. Applying his own ideas against the “UHF discount” draft order reveals much:
One of Chairman Pai’s abiding goals is to root out “obsolete rules,”
According to his regulatory philosophy “regulators should be skeptical of pleas to … afford special treatment,”
“as a creature of Congress, the FCC must respect the law as set forth by the legislature,”
“throughout my time at the Commission, I have worked on ways for the FCC to foster diversity in the broadcast industry,” and
“consumers benefit most from competition.”

Chairman Pai’s and Commissioner O’Rielly’s vote tomorrow morning will violate all five of these principles simultaneously: they are starting on a path of massive media consolidation by reinstating a technically obsolete rule justified by promising to change a rule Congress has specifically prohibited the FCC from changing and making it more difficult for smaller stations owned by women and people of color.

[Cheryl Leanza is the policy adviser for the United Church of Christ’s media justice ministry, OC Inc.]

The FCC Is Leading Us Toward Catastrophe

[Commentary] Here’s what we know about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s latest plans: He’s planning to erase the utility designation the Obama FCC re-applied to high-speed internet access carriers in February 2015 (following an unprecedented 10-year period of deregulation). In parallel, in an empty bid to pay lip service to the idea of an open internet, he wants to shift authority to the Federal Trade Commission...This move is not really about net neutrality: It’s about whether or not internet access is a utility rather than a luxury. If it’s a utility, it needs to be subject to rules, laid out in advance, about availability and quality. If it’s not, we’re saying we trust competition in the private market to protect consumers and ensure that everyone in the country gets world-class, open, nondiscriminatory internet access.

Chairman Pai is saying he trusts competition in the private marketplace. That’s nonsensical.

[Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School]

What 100K Can Do for Civic Journalism in Chicago

We’re thrilled to announce that City Bureau has received a $100,000 grant from the Voqal Foundation to continue its work creating equitable, community-centered coverage on Chicago’s South and West Sides. This comes on the heels of a generous $75,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation, an early supporter of City Bureau. With these grants, Voqal and McCormick renew their commitment to supporting media that is from and for the public. We feel lucky to spend our days building an innovative model for participatory journalism by supporting the work of emerging, diverse and civically engaged journalists in Chicago—and we’re grateful for the financial support needed to continue that work.