- A supporter of net neutrality allegedly threatened to kill a New York congressman and his family if he didn’t back the rules.
- The death threat comes as the Federal Communications Commission is preparing to overturn its broadly popular net neutrality rules.
- The death threat and the FCC’s upcoming vote come amid charges that the agency’s comment process on its proposal was seriously flawed.
The Federal Communications Commission’s effort to overturn net neutrality rules is stirring up intense passions, allegedly even criminal ones.
Criminal charges were filed against a Syracuse man who allegedly threatened to kill Rep. John Katko and Katko’s family, if the Republican congressman from New York didn’t support net neutrality, according to a press release from the FCC on Thursday. The individual, whom the press release didn’t name, allegedly left a voicemail at Katko’s office saying “‘[I]f you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill … you … all.”
In the press statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms any attempts to intimidate government officials with violent threats, and in particular, efforts to target their families.”
Pai, who is spearheading the move to roll back the net neutrality rules, has himself personally been targeted by supporters of those regulations. Net neutrality supporters reportedly posted cardboard protest signs recently outside his home. One of the signs read, “Dad murdered democracy in cold blood,” Fox News reported on Monday.
“Families … should remain out of it and stop harassing us at our homes,” Pai told Fox News.
The death threat and the intense criticism come as the FCC is preparing to vote to overturn its net neutrality rules on December 14. Voted in place in 2015 under the Obama administration, the rules bar broadband access providers from blocking, throttling or providing paid preferential access to particular online sites or services.
The intense passions also come amid an ongoing investigation into the public comment process the FCC held on its proposal to overturn the rules. More than half of the 21.7 million comments submitted to the FCC over its proposal appear to have been faked, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center. Among those, thousands appear to be comments that were submitted by people using names other than their own, allegedly without the knowledge or consent of those whose names were used.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is leading an official investigation into the comment process, believes the impersonations were likely designed to “drown out the views of real people and businesses” regarding the repeal of net neutrality. The FCC has refused to cooperate with Schneiderman’s investigation.
My office analyzed the public comments submitted to the @FCC about #netneutrality—and found that 100,000s of Americans were likely impersonated to drown out the views of real people and businesses. This was akin to identity theft on a massive scale: https://t.co/xxFjSgoqVP
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) November 21, 2017
The net neutrality rules are broadly popular and have bipartisan support among the general public. Comments submitted to the FCC in reaction to its proposal to do away with the rules were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping them in place, according to an estimate commissioned by the broadband industry, which wants to overturn the rules.
Despite the rules’ popularity, they’ve generally been oppoosed by Republican public officials. Pai, a Republican, voted against adoption of the rules in 2015 and made clear even before he became chairman that he would seek to eliminate them.
That the FCC has continued with its process to overturn the rules despite evidence that the comment system was tampered with and despite the rules’ public support has led to frustration and anger among many supporters of the rules, many of whom have taken to Twitter and other forums to harshly express their views.