Category Archives: Net Neutrality

FCC Net Neutrality Rollback Filled with Fake Comments

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report based on an investigation into the 2017 net neutrality rollback. It revealed that 18 million fake comments were filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The full report included the following information:

…In the course of the investigation, the OAG obtained and analyzed tens of thousands of internal emails, planning documents, bank records, invoices, and data comprising of hundreds of millions of records. Our investigation confirmed that many contemporaneous reports of fraud that dogged that rulemaking process. The OAG found that millions of fake comments were submitted through a secret campaign, funded by the country’s broadband companies, to manufacture support for the repeal of existing net neutrality rules using leads generators….

The report found millions more fake comments were submitted by a 19-year-old college student who used automated software to create fake identities. Those fake identities were in favor of net neutrality.

The broadband companies used commercial lead generators that used prizes – like gift cards and sweepstakes entries – to lure consumers to their websites and to join the campaign. Nearly every lead generator that was hired for the campaign “fabricated consumers’ responses.” Those fake responses were against the Obama-era net neutrality rules.

At the time the FCC was seeking comments about the rollback of Obama-era net neutrality rules, reporters noticed that hundreds of thousands of the comments shared identical language. When contacted by reporters, individuals said they never signed it, or never heard of net neutrality. Some who supposedly signed it had died before the comment was signed.

Personally, I think the broadband companies who hired the lead generators should be held accountable for the fraud they helped perpetrate. It is absolutely disgusting to see the lengths they went to in order to thwart the will of the people.

Mozilla Asks FCC to Reinstate Net Neutrality

Mozilla, along with ADT, Dropbox, Eventbrite, Reddit, Vimeo, and Wikimedia, sent a letter to the FCC in which they asked the agency to reinstate net neutrality in the United States as a matter of urgency.

The letter was sent to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who was selected by President Joe Biden to run the Federal Communications Commission. She was already on the Commission, and is currently Acting Charwoman of the FCC.

In January of 2020, Ajit Pai stepped down from the FCC. He was the one who oversaw the rollback of net neutrality during the Trump administration. As such, now seems like a very good time for Mozilla (and others) to push for net neutrality.

Here is a piece from the letter sent to Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel:

We are writing to express our support for the reinstatement of net neutrality protections through Federal Communications Commission (FCC) action. As leading internet-used businesses and organizations, we believe that these fundamental safeguards are critical for preserving the internet as a free and open medium that promotes innovation and spurs economic growth. Net Neutrality enjoys bipartisan support among the American public, and many may need to rely on protections enforced by the FCC as more offices and classrooms continue to shift online settings during the pandemic. By using its authority to restore net neutrality at the federal level, the FCC can help protect families and businesses across the country that rely on high-speed broadband access and help spark our recovery.

Mozilla pointed out in their blog post that in California residents will have the benefits of net neutrality safeguards as the result of a recent court decision that will allow California to enforce its own state net neutrality law.

Mozilla made it clear that they believe that internet users nationwide deserve the same ability to control their own online experiences. They also emphasized that there is no reason to further delay the reinstatement of net neutrality once the FCC is in working order.

To me, “working order” could be a referring to the fact that there currently are two Democrats (Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks) and two Republicans (Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington). This could potentially lead to “gridlock” on major decisions. There is one vacant seat, and President Biden has the ability to choose who will fill it.

FCC Must Provide IP Address to Fake Net Neutrality Comments

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been ordered to provide the server logs that may provide new insight into the allegations of fraud stemming from the agency’s 2017 net neutrality law, Gizmodo reported. The information in the server logs could potentially force the FCC to roll back its decision to kill net neutrality.

The case is titled: The New York Times Company v. Federal Communications Commission. It was filed on September 20, 2018, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The complaint was filed by The New York Times Company, and two of its reporters, Nicholas Confessore and Gabriel Dance.

The beginning part of the complaint is interesting. In it, the plaintiffs note that this litigation “involves records that will shed light on the extent to which Russian nationals and agents of the Russian government have interfered with the agency notice-and-comment process about a topic of extensive public interest: the government’s decision to abandon ‘net neutrality’. Release of the records will help broaden the public’s understanding of the scope of Russian interference in the American democratic system.”

The complaint also notes that “the FCC has thrown up a series of roadblocks, preventing The Times from obtaining the documents.” It also points out that “the FCC responded to The Times attempt to resolve this matter without litigation with protestations that the agency lacked the technical capacity to respond to the request” (among other excuses).

It appears that District Judge Lorna Schofield (a Manhattan federal court judge), wasn’t buying those excuses. Gizmodo reported that the FCC must release the server logs, which may help clarify whether fraudulent activity interfered with the comment period, as well as whether the FCC’s decision-making process is “vulnerable to corruption.”

Judge Schofield also said: “If genuine public comment is drowned out by a fraudulent facsimile, then the notice-and-comment process has failed.”

I expect that once The New York Times gets its hands on the information that it has requested, it won’t be too long until they publish what they found. This could be extremely embarrassing for the FCC, especially if many of the IP addresses that posted a comment connect to people who are not citizens of the United States. If so, perhaps the FCC can be shamed into doing the right thing and restoring net neutrality.

U.S. Appeals Court Won’t Reconsider Net Neutrality

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided not to reconsider an October ruling that upheld the repeal of net neutrality rules. The court declined without comment. Personally, I think the court’s lack of explanation as to why they chose to ignore the request from 15 states and several advocacy groups – is cowardly.

According to Reuters, petitions were filed by the Consumer & Communications Industry Association, internet trade group INCOMPAS, and others. Members of, Inc. Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc., and Google parent Alphabet also filed petitions.

Free Press, an advocacy group, posted a press release about the court’s denial of the request to rehear the courts decision in Mozilla v. FCC. It stated that in October of 2019, the court upheld the FCC’s Net Neutrality repeal and broadband classification order, but reversed the FCC’s in its attempt to preempt all state Net Neutrality laws.

The court remanded the case to the FCC because the agency failed to address how repeals would impact public safety, the Lifeline broadband-subsidy program for low-income people, and broadband providers’ access to public rights of way.

In December, Free Press filed a petition for the rehearing, along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

Free Press notes that the denial of rehearing that request “starts the clock on potential further appeals.” Parties have at least 90 days to consider seeking Supreme Court review. According to Reuters, Mozilla, who also fought the net neutrality repeal, said it was considering “next steps”.

In short, this isn’t over yet. But, personally, I’m not sure I trust the current Supreme Court to do the right thing and uphold net neutrality. Reuters notes that in April of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reinstate net neutrality protections, but the Republican-led Senate refused to consider it.

No matter what political party you prefer, there is one thing we all agree on. No one wants to have their internet throttled. It doesn’t make sense for the courts to go against the will of the American people regarding net neutrality protections.

California’s Net Neutrality Bill is Now a Law

California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 882. This means that California has enacted the strongest net neutrality protections in the United States. The law will go into effect next year. It is a big win for consumers in California.

As you may have expected, the U.S. Justice Department has decided to sue the state of California, claiming that its net neutrality law is “extreme and illegal” and something about states not being allowed to regulate interstate commerce.

Personally, I don’t think the U.S. Justice Department has a case. California has enacted stronger auto emission standards than many other states – and the auto industry has complied. California is among other states that require health insurance providers to cover the preventative health benefits that are part of the Affordable Care Act – and the health care industries are still in the Marketplace. There’s no good reason why internet providers should be allowed to trump state’s rights.

The other reason I think the U.S. Justice Department doesn’t have a case is because of the shenanigans that happened when the FCC had a comment period about their repeal of net neutrality rules. As many as 2 million fake comments appeared, some of which stole the identities of real Americans. Some people found that their deceased relatives had magically posted anti-net neutrality comments from beyond the grave.

It is illogical to assume that a situation that started off with lies and shenanigans could result in a winning court case.

Image from Pixabay

California Legislature Passed a Strong Net Neutrality Bill

The California Legislature has passed SB 822, a strong internet neutrality bill. The vote was 27 -12. Next, the bill goes to Governor Jerry Brown.

SB 822 would restore the net neutrality rules that were enacted federally under former President Barack Obama. Those rules were repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December of 2017.

In May of 2018, the United States Senate overturned the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules by using the Congressional Review Act. But, for net neutrality to be reinstated federally, the House of Representatives would also have to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCCs repeal of net neutrality – and then President Trump would have to sign it into law.

In my opinion, this is why some state legislatures are passing their own net neutrality bills. It seems to me that states can enact net neutrality legislation faster than the federal government will.

California also has a unique reason to pass a strong net neutrality bill. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s command vehicle faced email delays and challenges updating web-based documents with critical information about deployment during the Mendocino Complex fire.

Their internet provider was Verizon Wireless, who (according to the Los Angeles Times) “throttled down the department’s connection to 1/200 or less than previous speeds because the agency had exceeded its data plan limit.” Verizon says the situation was a “customer support mistake” and has nothing to do with net neutrality.

I live in California, and am hoping that this bill becomes law. Net neutrality is especially important for people who have chronic illnesses and/or disabilities (myself included) who are unable to work a typical job. Many of us are able to earn some income online because we can fit that work around our health issues and doctor appointments.

SB 822 (if signed into law) will prohibit internet service providers from:

  • Blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.
  • Engaging in zero-rating in exchange for consideration, monetary or otherwise, from a third party.
  • Zero-rating some internet content, applications, services, or devices in a category – but not the entire category.
  • Unreasonably interfering with, or unreasonably disadvantaging, either an end user’s ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, service, or devices of the end user’s choice, or an edge provider’s ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users.

YouTube Shames Slow Internet Providers

YouTube logoHave you ever wondered why a YouTube video is taking a long time load, buffering, or refusing to play? YouTube has started pointing people towards the answer to that question. A blue bar will appear underneath the video that asks, “Experiencing Interruptions?” Click on the button that says “Find out why”, and the answer is revealed.

YouTube will automatically send you to Google’s new website, which is called Video Quality Report. It will show you the video streaming quality results for your provider in your area. Quartz describes it as “like a report card for your delinquent ISP”.

The notification system that YouTube has started using reminds me of what Netflix used to do. When a video was loading too slowly, Netflix was displaying a notification like: “The Verizon network is crowded right now”. Verizon threatened legal action, and Netflix has stopped doing that.

It has been said that efforts like what Netflix used to do, and what YouTube is doing now, are an attempt to shame internet providers who offer shoddy service. It is also a way make consumers acutely aware of which providers are better than others. That will enable people to switch to better ones (in areas where more than one choice is available).

It is also a way for YouTube (and previously, Netflix) to subtly point out what would happen if internet providers were allowed to create a “fast lane”. Those who didn’t get how net neutrality might affect them could have the “lightbulb” go on after seeing how a slow connection from their internet provider directly affects them.