NLPC Says Title II-Fans Are Gaming FCC Docket

Lobbying group cites analysis of pro-net neutrality comments

The National Legal and Policy Center, a political and policy lobbying group, has fired the latest shot in the battle over net-neutrality comments filed with the FCC, saying that if its analysis is correct, it will ask Congress to investigate.

Countering pushback from Title II fans who have said net-neutrality foes are flooding the Title II docket with fake comments, the NLPC said it has found evidence of "massive deception" among the pro-Title II contingent and its own flood of questionable input.

The group said it has concluded, based on its own analysis, that for up to 20% of all the pro-net neutrality comments filed so far, either the e-mail address and name don't match or the same email address was used to email multiple comments -- sometimes thousands of them -- including addresses "culled from spammer and hacker databases" and generated by a fake email address site. The NLPC said it plans to have a "professional data forensics expert" vet the comments.

"Gaming a regulatory rulemaking in this way is highly deceptive and completely undermines the integrity of the public comment process," NLPC president Peter Flaherty said. "More troubling, the potential privacy breach of knowingly using other people's email addresses without their permission to submit comments would be unprecedented.

"If our independent forensics analysis confirms that the deception is as extensive as the initial analysis indicates, we will submit our report to Congress and urge them to conduct a full and thorough investigation," Flaherty added.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has signaled bogus comments are the price of an open process.

"[T]here's obviously a tension between having an open process where it's easy to comment and preventing questionable comments from being filed, and generally speaking, this agency has erred on the side of openness; we want to encourage people to participate in as easy and accessible a way as possible," the chairman said following the May FCC public meeting.

There are currently north of 2.9 million comments in the Restoring Internet Freedom docket, which is what the FCC is labeling Pai's proposal to roll back Title II classification of ISPS and the "general conduct standard" and rethink the prohibitions on blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and other elements of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet order.