It turns out major slowdowns on the FCC’s site last May after all.
At the time, the Federal Communications Commission said multiple distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which flood a website with useless traffic and cause it to slow down or crash, were to blame for the site’s slowdowns. But on Monday, Chairman Ajit Pai said that information was false.
“I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people,” Pai wrote in a statement. “This is completely unacceptable.”
On May 7, 2017, the FCC’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver encouraged his audience to post comments to the agency supporting net neutrality. FCC officials initially claimed the site went down because of a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks. But net neutrality supporters accused the agency of making up the attack and blamed it for failing to keep the system online. The Office of Inspector General led an independent investigation into the incident.after
“On the other hand, I’m pleased that this report debunks the conspiracy theory that my office or I had any knowledge that the information provided by the former CIO was inaccurate and was allowing that inaccurate information to be disseminated for political purposes,” Pai wrote. “Indeed, as the report documents, on the morning of May 8, it was the former CIO who informed my office that ‘some external folks attempted to send high traffic in an attempt to tie-up the server from responding to others, which unfortunately makes it appear unavailable to everyone attempting to get through the queue.'”
Pai said the former CIO told his office they were “99.9% confident this was external folks deliberately trying to tie-up the server to prevent others from commenting and/or create a spectacle.'”
Still, net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future was skeptical about Pai’s statement on Monday.
“Under Ajit Pai’s leadership, the FCC sabotaged its own public comment process,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, in a statement. “Pai attempts to blame his staff, but this happened on his watch, and he repeatedly obstructed attempts by lawmakers and the press to get answers.”
The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Fight for the Future’s statement.
Pai said the report highlights the need for the FCC to update and redesign its comment system. Congress last week approved the funding necessary for that project, he said.
You can read Pai’s full statement below: