Way back at the beginning of the Trump administration, a battle raged across the internet over net neutrality, a hotly divided political issue most people didn’t truly understand. The Obama administration was all for net neutrality, even though it wouldn’t have made a difference to users but would have created more government control over our lives. The Trump administration, by contrast, was against that additional government power and repealed net neutrality — to the notice of absolutely no one.
The internet didn’t collapse, prices didn’t increase, people didn’t die, and most forgot all about net neutrality. But as RedState’s Kira Davis reported, a report from Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General, found that most of the more than 22 million public comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) were actually spam blasts.
“A new report from the Attorney General of New York, Letitia James, has found that 7.7 million comments in support of net neutrality were generated by just one person, a 19-year-old college student,” Davis wrote. “And it wasn’t just the pro-net neutrality comments that were found to fraudulent. James’ investigation also discovered a ‘broadband industry group’ spent a lot of money to generate nearly 8.5 million comments in favor of repealing the FCC policy.”
Slate noted that James’ report also recommended improvements to the public comment process to ensure these things don’t keep happening in the future:
The report also outlines recommendations to improve the transparency and accountability of FCC rulemaking proceedings, which allow the public to weigh in on draft proposals of regulation changes. For instance, it suggests mandating that lead generation vendors receive express, informed consent before submitting a public comment on someone’s behalf.
The New York AG report includes comments from people whose names were used without their permission. One expressed disgust “that somebody stole [their] identity and used it to push a viewpoint that [they] do not hold.” One 10-year-old boy’s name, address, and valid e-mail was used without his or his parents’ permission. One other victim may have summed it up best: “These are the kinds of actions that make the population lose faith in the system.”
As Davis commented, it appears Democrats, who continually claim there’s no need to verify voter identities to prevent fraud, would very much like to verify the identities of public commenters to ensure transparency and integrity.
As Harry Khachatrian wrote for The Daily Wire in 2017, the theory behind net neutrality was that companies like Google were customers of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in order to get their content to we, the people. Proponents of net neutrality argued that ISPs shouldn’t be able to offer Google and other big companies a premium service at the expense of smaller companies and that traffic through ISPs should be treated the same whether it was for sending an email or downloading a movie.
But the internet doesn’t work like that anymore, as Google and other big companies have their own infrastructure to bypass ISPs, meaning net neutrality didn’t affect them. It would, however, affect their smaller competitors, which is why they publicly supported net neutrality with slogans like a “Free & Open Internet.”