Trump made a lot of terrible senior appointments, but few so bad as Ajit Pai, the Verizon lawyer turned FCC Chairman who presided over a grossly, lavishly fraudulent repeal of his predecessor’s Net Neutrality order.
The public comments docket for the 2017 Net Neutrality repeal attracted a record number of responses — 22 million! — and the vast majority of them were obviously fraudulent.
Millions of them were attributed to name/email address pairs from publicly available breach data. Millions more were random strings with followed by “@pornhub.com.” Almost without exception, they supported the telecoms industry’s position that Net Neutrality should be killed.
Among Big Telcos’ most ardent supporters were many dead people:
And multiple sitting US senators who said their identities had been stolen:
When millions of real people wrote in support of Net Neutrality (in response to John Oliver’s call to arms) Pai fraudulently claimed the FCC had been compromised by a DDoS attack, not wanting to admit how popular Net Neutrality really was.
Pai took no action to investigate the fraudulent comments supporting his neutrality repeal, not even in response to bipartisan letters from Congress:
Instead, Pai announced that he was going to treat every comment as real:
The New York Attorney General’s office was moved to open an investigation into the fraud, which Pai personally obstructed:
But the investigation went on, and today, the NY AG released its findings:
Unsurprisingly — but importantly — the NY AG found that 18 million of the 22 million comments the FCC received were fake, that the fake comments favored the Net Neutrality repeal, and that the fraud was a paid operation on behalf of telcos.
The AG’s made the attribution after it flipped the companies that engaged in the fraud — Fluent, React2Media, and Opt-Intelligence — and let the off with a $4m settlement in exchange for ratting on their Big Telco clients.
Pai claimed repealing Net Neutrality would spur broadband deployment, ending America high priced, slow broadband, among the worst in the OECD. Instead, investment was cut as telcos raised prices and paid billions to shareholders.
Pai left millions of Americans with slow broadband (or no broadband at all) even as the pandemic moved all education, employment, healthcare, and family life online. He is one of history’s great monsters.
Naturally, he’s just been given a cushy private equity job at Searchlight Capital Partners.
Thankfully, his successor, Jessica Rosenworcel is a hard-fighting public advocate who has signalled her intention to rein in America’s lavishly fraudulent broadband profiteers and wants you broadband measurements to help her do so:
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering; and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias.