FCC misled Congress over net neutrality commenting crash, investigators say

Ian Bush
August 07, 2018 - 8:26 pm

Dreamstime

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WASHINGTON (KYW Newsradio) — An internal investigation has found that the Federal Communications Commission misled Congress when it blamed hackers for disabling its public commenting system during last year's debate over the repeal of net neutrality.

The event that brought the FCC's website to its knees was "mischaracterized" by the commission "as resulting from a criminal act, rather than apparent shortcomings in the system," according to the findings by the FCC's Office of Inspector General, which said an attack did not occur. 

So what did? John Oliver.

"It seems once more, we the people must take this matter into our own hands," Oliver said on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight" during an episode on May 7, 2017. The host implored his viewers to write in favor of the Obama-era regulations.

"If you think that's too complicated, don't worry — that's why we bought the URL gofccyourself.com," he said.

So many people went to that site in the hours that followed the broadcast and related social media posts — "FCC traffic [bytes> delivered increased by 3,116 percent over normally observed levels," according to the report — the official comment-filing page to which it redirected traffic collapsed.

The investigator's report, first published by Gizmodo, said "at best, the published reports were the result of a rush to judgment and the failure to conduct analyses needed to identify the true cause of the disruption to system availability."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the Republican who led the successful effort to repeal net neutrality, had told Congress that a "cyber-based attack" was to blame. He now says he was relying on "inaccurate information" from the commission's former chief information officer.

In a tweet, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) wrote: