Last year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to overturn net neutrality rules, a move that millions of people protested in comments sent to the FCC. But many more were unable to leave comments, as the FCC’s public commenting system went down following a late-night John Oliver segment in which he exhorted viewers to leave their comments with the FCC.
The public excuse for that technical failure was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, a common and crude hacking tool that generally uses hundreds of thousands of devices (many of them hacked) to overwhelm a service with traffic. The inspector general has investigated the issue and is set to release a report, which has been seen by the FCC but not yet made public. Thanks to some statements from the FCC, however, we can guess that the report confirms what pro-net neutrality groups have been saying all along: The “attack” was totally bogus.
“With respect to the report’s findings, I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “This is completely unacceptable. I’m also disappointed that some working under the former CIO apparently either disagreed with the information that he was presenting or had questions about it, yet didn’t feel comfortable communicating their concerns to me or my office.”
It’s easy to forget that the claims about a DDOS attack came from an FCC run by Pai, not the Obama administration. The buck, in this instance, appears to stop much further down the chain of command.
Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel put it much more succinctly: “The Inspector General Report tells us what we knew all along: the FCC’s claim that it was the victim of a DDoS attack during the net neutrality proceeding is bogus.”
Pro-net neutrality groups were quick to claim a victory. “Under Ajit Pai’s leadership, the FCC sabotaged its own public comment process. From ignoring millions of fraudulent comments using stolen names and addresses to outright lies about DDoS attacks that never happened, the agency recklessly abdicated its responsibility to maintain a functional way for the public to be heard,” Fight for the Future, an advocacy group, said in a statement. “Pai attempts to blame his staff, but this happened on his watch, and he repeatedly obstructed attempts by lawmakers and the press to get answers.”
We’ll have to wait for the full inspector general report to get more details, but Pai’s statement sure reeks of a cover-up.