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WASHINGTON — On Thursday, the New York Attorney General’s office announced that its multi-year investigation found that the nation’s largest broadband companies funded a secret multimillion-dollar campaign to influence the Federal Communication Commissions’ 2017 repeal of Net Neutrality rules and Title II classification of broadband internet-access service.

The scheme resulted in millions of fake comments filed at the agency, as well as 500,000 fabricated letters to Congress, to give the false appearance of public support for the Trump FCC’s eventual repeal of open-internet protections.

Free Press Co-CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

“The New York Attorney General’s Office has exposed a massive fraud financed by the nation’s biggest phone and cable companies to drown out authentic public support for Net Neutrality. Knowing the vast majority of people in the United States wanted to preserve the Obama-era open-internet rules, industry lobbyists hired shady operators to trick people into supporting their positions. These lobbyists also filed fake comments using names of the deceased. They spent millions to try to obscure the public’s overwhelming support for real Net Neutrality and, in the process, destroyed a democratic process that was designed for genuine public input. This is outrageous and illegal.

“We applaud Attorney General Letitia James for investigating and exposing this scam, holding the scammers accountable and tracking these fraudulent activities back to those who financed them: the nation’s biggest broadband providers and their high-priced lobbyists, including a former chairman of the FCC. While the attorney general’s investigators didn’t find that the phone and cable companies had knowledge of the fraud being perpetrated, they did show that the industry intended to disrupt the public-comment process and drown out Net Neutrality supporters.

“The Biden FCC has the opportunity and responsibility to restore Net Neutrality and the authority the agency needs to regulate the nation’s biggest cable and phone companies. This investigation shows how low the industry will stoop to undermine even the most basic and benign safeguards. Agency leadership has a responsibility to root out such astroturfing efforts, restore public trust and access to the commenting system, and ensure that these companies can’t continue to manipulate the policymaking process.”

Free Press is a nonpartisan organization fighting for people’s rights to connect and communicate. Free Press does not support or oppose any candidate for public office. Learn more at www.freepress.net.