The FCC, in the midst of gutting much of the open-internet regulation (also known as “net neutrality”) that stopped telecoms from some of the most egregious forms of price-gouging and engaging in monopolistic behavior, was supposed to allow for comment from the public via its Electronic Comment Filing System. But after HBO comedian John Oliver aired a segment about it, the strangest thing happened: The FCC got hacked!
The FCC released a statement in May, claiming it was hit with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, meaning that thousands of comments, whether pro– or anti–net neutrality, were lost to the ether. It’s also resisted requests to disclose more information about the attack, leading one group, Fight for the Future, to claim that the FCC had faked a “DDoS attack to cover up the fact that they lost comments from net neutrality supporters.” Two Democratic senators asked for an investigation into the matter in August, and Ars Technica is now reporting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will undertake that inquiry.
However, open-internet proponents probably shouldn’t start popping Champagne quite yet. It’s not clear when the GAO investigation would actually begin, or when it would wrap up. The proposed changes by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, rolling back the 2015 FCC Open Internet Order, could likely have already happened by the time the GAO delivers its findings.