Business Government

Authorities: Between 50,000 & 99,000 PA Net Neutrality Comments Fake

Candidate for attorney general Josh Shapiro speaking an event in Newtown Township last year.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

Pennsylvania’s attorney general has joined his peers from 17 other states in requesting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delay their planned Thursday vote that could rollback net neutrality.

The request from Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the other attorney generals comes in the wake of an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office that revealed as many as two million of the public comments submitted to the FCC stole real Americans’ identities.

“I’m very concerned that a pattern of fake comments using the names of real people is being used to undermine net neutrality and the legitimacy of the FCC’s process,” Shapiro said. “Given all the tainted comments, I’m asking the Federal Communications Commission to delay the vote tomorrow to rollback net neutrality until we get to the bottom of these fake comments.”

Net neutrality goes on the idea that internet traffic should be treated on a level playing field and service providers are not able to favor certain services or content providers based on how much customers pay. Opponents worry that the rolling back regulations on net neutrality would create an unfair advantage to large content producers, streaming services and cost consumers more money.

According to the New York Attorney General’s Office, more than 5,000 people have filed reports that their identities were used to file fake comments with federal officials. As of Wednesday, investigators have found up to two million comments that “misused the identities of real Americans.”

In Pennsylvania, between 50,000 to 99,000 fake comments using stolen identities were filed, New York investigators said.

“This comment listed the name and address of my father, who died 10 years ago. This is really disgraceful that his name and address has been used in this way,” one Pennsylvania resident wrote in their filing to New York investigators.

New York authorities said the FCC’s attorneys said the agency will not cooperate with their investigation and plans to move forward with their planned vote.

“I’ve launched a website, and want Pennsylvanians’ help to see if their identities were used to falsely send comments to the FCC,” Shapiro said. “We’ll review all the information reported and determine whether any laws were violated.”

The letter submitted by the attorney generals was submitted to the FCC Wednesday.

“It is essential that the [FCC officials] get a full and accurate picture of how changes to net neutrality will affect the everyday lives of Americans before they can act on such sweeping policy changes,” the letter states. Publisher Tom Sofield has joined Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION), a group of 180 local news publishers across the United States, in opposing the regulations that they fear would hurt small businesses and independently owned local news outlets.

“Access to information and local journalism that holds government and other powerful institutions accountable is essential to a functioning democracy, economic well-being, and human rights,” said LION Executive Director Matt DeRienzo. “These pillars are already under severe strain from the dominance of a handful of large tech platforms, and the rapid consolidation of the newspaper and broadcasting industry under the control of a few enormous corporate chains.”

A poll by University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy states that 83 percent of respondents are against the FCC’s plan to repeal net neutrality regulations. The support against the proposal, according to the survey, was bipartisan.

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