New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took aim at the integrity of the FCC's rule-making proceeding to roll back many of its current net neutrality rules, pointing to evidence that numerous public comments filed come from stolen identities or are fake.
If so, and if the FCC rolls back the net neutrality rules December 14, then neither the FTC nor the FCC will have the authority to regulate broadband providers.
"Impersonation, forgery, other misuses of a person's identity are a violation to NY law".
Schneiderman says the FCC had been unwilling to help investigate who is behind the misused identities but reversed course on Monday saying they would help.
Schneiderman says tens of thousands of people across the country may have had their names attached to the fake submissions.
Without the FCC's help, the New York Attorney General's office recently launched a webpage that allows Americans to search the FCC comment system to find out whether their identities had been stolen.
Schneiderman said that his call for a halt to the vote was "not a dispute on the merits" of whether the rules should be repealed or kept in place, as there have been doubts about the authenticity of comments coming from both sides of the debate.
For now, Schneiderman called the FCC's entire comment process "deeply corrupted", and asked federal investigators to look into the incident alongside his own probe.
The prosecutor added that he has contacted the FCC nine times about the investigation before finally receiving an offer of assistance from the agency's inspector general's office that morning.
The FCC received almost 22 million comments when it asked for public input on the plan to scrap the rules that prevent internet service providers from discriminating against certain content, The Hill reported.
Schneiderman said his team "discovered lots of anecdotal evidence" that some of the comments left on the FCC website appeared to not be legitimate, which ultimately led to his office's investigation. Further, Schneiderman notes that 50,000 consumer complaints are missing from the FCC record. "We are requesting that you delay your planned vote on this item until you can conduct a thorough review of the state of the record and provide Congress with greater assurance of its accuracy and completeness", they wrote. The FCC needs to get to the bottom of this mess.
"This is an attempt by people who want to keep the Obama Administration's heavy-handed internet regulations to delay the vote because they realize that their effort to defeat the plan to restore internet freedom has stalled", he said in a statement.
Based on Schneiderman's investigation, residents of California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas may have also had their personal information used to submit comments on net neutrality, Rosenworcel said.