The Office of the New York Attorney General said in a new report that a campaign funded by the broadband industry submitted millions of fake comments supporting the 2017 repeal of net neutrality.
The Federal Communications Commission’s contentious 2017 repeal undid Obama-era rules that barred internet service providers from slowing or blocking websites and apps or charging companies more for faster speeds to consumers.
The proceeding generated a record-breaking number of comments — more than 22 million. The attorney general’s report found that nearly 18 million of those were fake comments, and the broadband industry group, called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million generating more than 8.5 million of the fake FCC comments. Half a million fake letters were also sent to Congress.
The report said that the goal of the campaign, according to internal documents the attorney general’s office received, was to make it seem like there was “widespread grassroots support” for the repeal of net neutrality that could give the FCC chairman at the time, Ajit Pai, “volume and intellectual cover” for the repeal.
Broadband for America’s website says its members include AT&T and Comcast as well as major trade groups for the wireless, cable and telecom industries.
The attorney general, Letitia James, also announced agreements with three of the companies that were responsible for millions of the fake comments, Fluent Inc., Opt-Intelligence Inc. and React2Media Inc., that require them to change practices in future advocacy campaigns and pay $4.4 million in fines.
AT&T, Comcast and industry trade groups NCTA and USTelecom did not immediately respond to questions.