FCC Pays Journalist's Legal Fees

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 01, 2019 4:00 PM

The Federal Communications Commission agreed to pay $43,000 to a journalist who sued the commission for stonewalling his request for information about the repeal of net neutrality rules.

Jason Prechtel, a freelance writer, was researching public comments to repeal net neutrality allegedly made using stolen identities. He filed a request for the information with the FCC, but the agency did not comply.

Prechtel won a court order to obtain the information, and the FCC then agreed to pay for his attorney's fees and costs. In a settlement agreement to dismiss the case, the agency did not admit any wrongdoing.

Bigger Story

The big story is not the fee award, however; that's just the latest news in a much bigger story. ArsTechnica reported "the FCC had to pay for hiding net neutrality records."

In 2017, Prechtel sued the FCC for not responding to his request under the Freedom of Information Act. He wanted data that would identify who made bulk comment uploads that were falsely attributed to people without their knowledge.

He won a court order last year for the information, which led to an expose about "how investigators had linked various entities, including a prominent Washington, DC, publication, to potentially millions of fraudulent comments submitted during the 2017 net neutrality rollback."

Stolen Identifies

According to reports, the discovery snared a prominent media firm. Gizmodo said CQ Roll was using the FCC's system to submit comments supporting repeal of net neutrality rules.

Investigators from the New York attorney general's office were also looking into the issue. They determined that up to 9.5 million comments were submitted under stolen identities.

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