BOSTON -- Local lawmakers and a federal commissioner are calling for a delay on a vote that could make your internet bill more expensive – a day after 25 Investigates uncovered thousands of Massachusetts residents had their identities stolen and used to lobby the government.
“I think it’s stunning what we’re finding in our record,” said Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. “This is a kind of public corruption and we have got to get to the bottom of it.”
Rosenworcel is one of five votes that will decide whether to get rid of so-called net neutrality protections – a move which would allow providers to charge you more money to access certain parts of the internet. Rosenworcel says it’s a decision which should now be delayed.
“Net neutrality is important,” said Rosenworcel. “You should be able to go where you want and do what you want online without your broadband provider getting in the way, blocking websites or censoring comment.”
Recent polls show only a small number of people – 18 percent – actually oppose net neutrality, yet a 25 Investigates review found a flood of fake comments to the FCC calling for an end to net neutrality and submitted under the names and address of real people.
The victims – including a 13-year-old North Shore boy, a Lexington realtor, a marketing professional from Jamaica Plain and the wife of U.S. Congressman Michael Capuano – were all unaware someone had used their names and addresses to urge the FCC to get rid of net neutrality protections until 25 Investigates contacted them.
Net neutrality rules currently in place prevent internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to certain websites, videos, social media, email or any other service online. Without current net neutrality rules, critics say internet service could become more like cable television – costing you more money to access certain websites.
U.S. Rep Michael Capuano, D-Somerville, is demanding an FCC investigation into the identity theft of his wife and other Massachusetts residents.
Barbara Capuano said she never wrote the online comment to the FCC, stating the current internet system is “threatening innovation” and calling for the “roll back” of net neutrality protections.
And there’s reason to be concerned that Capuano’s identity wasn’t the only one hijacked.
The same fake comment submitted under Capuano’s name was sent to the FCC more than 1.2 million times over three weeks during summer – including more than 14,000 times by people supposedly from Massachusetts.
The FCC has resisted calls to delay the vote and a spokesman has insisted the agency’s proposal to get rid of net neutrality “does not rely on or cite to any of the fake comments mentioned or reported.”
U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Boston, told 25 Investigates Congress could take action of their own and reverse any moves to throw out net neutrality rules.
“I'm sure we’ve got virtually all of the Democrats on board and I bet there are some freedom-loving Republicans as well that would support net neutrality,” Lynch told 25 Investigates.
The FCC is expected to vote on net neutrality when the board meets at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
You can send the FCC your opinion on net neutrality here: www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express
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