Net Neutrality: Bots, Dead People and Stolen Identities

The FCC is being deluged with comments on net neutrality, and there are questions about whether comments are genuine or not. Automated “bot” spam, breached data and comments from beyond the grave have cast doubt on the authenticity of hundreds of thousands of comments.

 

In April, the Federal Communications Commission opened up a comments portal on the topic of net neutrality proposals. The portal was provided so people could express opinions on whether or not existing net neutrality rules should be repealed. The FCC has received nearly three million replies to date. At least 400,000 of those, however, appear to have been generated by automated “bot” systems. Spammers are also using stolen personal data, names and addresses that came from hacked databases.

 

The campaign group Fight for the Future has filed a formal complaint against the FCC. The group is calling for the FCC to investigate what is clearly a pattern of fake comments. The complaint is signed by 14 individuals who claim their identities were used without their permission to post opinions on the portal. Fight for the Future reports that it has heard from hundreds of people who had their identities used fraudulently.

 

Fight for the Future also claims that the personal details of deceased people are showing up on the comments list.

 

The FCC admits that the comments portal was designed with openness in mind. When design decisions were being made, they had to choose between an open process and one that contained robust spam filters. SEC Chairman says that they “erred on the side of openness”.

 

In 2015, the FCC passed rules that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. The current FCC has proposed changes that would roll back net neutrality. If passed, the new proposals would allow large Internet companies to sell better Internet performance to the highest bidder.

 

The questionable and fraudulent comments serve to obscure true public opinion on net neutrality. Prevailing sentiment is that most people want to maintain net neutrality, claiming it makes for a more democratic internet, while large ISP providers and telecom companies want to revoke existing net neutrality laws for more profit potential.

Comcast Faces $2.3 Million Fine

Comcast is known for providing some truly excellent deals for consumers who purchase services. So good are deals on internet, cable, and phone services that customers don’t always look closely at the bill. Apparently someone checked a monthly statement very closely and figured out Comcast was charging customers for things they never ordered. A $2.3 million fine has been levied as a result.

 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was behind the levying of the fine. The fine was arrived at after the conclusion of an investigation that revealed, in addition to billing for unrequested services, the company also billed for equipment not asked for. Clearly, these actions were a violation of federal law.

 

At the core of the decision was the assessment that refusal of service did not mean acceptance. In other words, if the company tacked on an extra cost and no one said remove it, the company does not automatically have the right to make any assessment the customer wants the service. Not gaining a direct “yes” from a customer means Comcast cannot add services and charge for them – period.

 

The monthly bills some customers received were pretty hard to ignore. The amount of money for the charged 30-day service was way beyond what many ever signed up for. Attention about the over-billing eventually reached government regulators. As a result, the process was set in motion to levy the fine. All of this is, honestly, mysterious. Comcast does billions of dollars in business per year. Why bother with such a petty practice? Clearly, someone somewhere in management made a terrible decision. The company is now paying the price, literally, for that decision.

 

The decision may rattle other entities in the cable industry. Any company that also is utilizing these business practices surely is going to reign them in. Assuming such behavior will go unnoticed would be a false assumption. Things may go unnoticed for a time, but the truth will eventually come out. And a fee is going to end up being paid – a hefty one.