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December 5, 2017

King joins Democrats in calling for delay in FCC vote on net neutrality

Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
Courtesy / U.S. Naval War College, Flickr
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is asking Federal Communications Chairman Ajit Pai to delay a scheduled Dec. 14 vote on the net neutrality process due to concerns about bots creating hundreds of thousands of comments during the FCC's public comment process.

U.S Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, joined 27 Senate Democrats in sending a letter Monday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, expressing concern over reports that bots filed hundreds of thousands of comments to the FCC during the net neutrality policy-making process.

The senators asked Pai to delay the planned Dec. 14 vote to roll back net neutrality rules until an investigation of the comment record is conducted to see if it was, in fact, corrupted by internet robots, a type of software application that runs automated tasks.

In a Nov. 28 article "How Bots broke the FCC's public comment system," WIRED reported more than one million of the record 22 million comments the FCC received "were from bots that used natural language generation to artificially amplify the call to repeal net neutrality protections. That number may only represent a fraction of the actual bot submissions."

In their letter the senators wrote: "A free and open internet is vital to ensuring a level playing field online, and we believe that your proposed action may be based on an incomplete understanding of the public record in this proceeding. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting that your proposal is fundamentally flawed."

The senators concluded: "Without additional information about the alleged anomalies surrounding the public record, the FCC cannot conduct a thorough and fair evaluation of the public's views on this topic, and should not move forward with a vote on Dec. 14, 2017."

King is on record supporting the preservation of net neutrality, stating that the "the internet as a tool that can be used equally by all." In September 2015, he filed an amicus brief with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the FCC's Open Internet rules. He also wrote a letter to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in advance of the Commission's net neutrality decision urging that broadband be reclassified as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

He was joined in writing the letter by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Amy Klobucha, D-Minn.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.;, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

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Senators' letter to FCC chairman

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