At The Wall Street Journal, James V. Grimaldi reports that the attorney general of New York State has subpoenaed more than a dozen consultants and outside lobbying firms as part of an investigation into fake comments filed with the FCC over net neutrality.
The civil subpoenas are aimed at determining who was behind millions of comments sent using the names of real people who didn’t authorize them, according to a person familiar with the investigation. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement that her office found up to 9.5 million comments that appear to have been filed using the names and addresses of real people who had no idea they were being cited in the comments.
An investigation by The Wall Street Journal last year found thousands of people who said their names were used without their permission to post comments about FCC rules.
The attorney general’s yearlong investigation is targeting fake comments filed on both sides of the issue. Among the entities subpoenaed are Broadband for America, a group backed by AT&T Inc. and other internet-service providers who sought the repeal of the Obama-era internet rules known as net neutrality, as well as consumer groups that supported the Obama rules, such as Fight for the Future and Free Press.
The attorney general also subpoenaed the Center for Individual Freedom, an Alexandria, Va.-based group that supported Mr. Pai’s repeal of the rules and drafted one of the most frequently cited comments posted on the FCC website: a complaint about the “unprecedented regulatory power the Obama administration.”
The Journal investigation reached 1,994 of the people registered by the FCC as having filed that comment; 72% of them said the comment was falsely submitted.