The entire Federal Communications Commission went before the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday where they were hit hard about a claim back in May that a cyberattack was to blame for shutting down the Commission’s online commenting system. In the end it was discovered that the system simply crashed, as it had in 2014, over the heated debate about net neutrality.
Ex-CIO David Bray, who also served in the same role under the Obama administration, called the outage a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Those are hacking attacks that knock web pages offline by overwhelming them with data requests. Pai and his staff supported the CIO’s assertion there’d been a DDoS attack.
Senator Ron Wyden recalls that what was coming from the Commission back in May as the cause simply didn’t make sense and he reminded FCC Chairman Ajit Pai of that yesterday. “The tech community said that doesn’t make any sense. I said it didn’t make sense.” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii also hit Pai hard. “You told Congress a federal crime was committed. Why didn’t you entertain any of those quite reasonable doubts that were out there?”
Pai stood his ground, telling the Committee his hands were tied. He was told by the Inspector General not to say anything. “Once we knew the conclusion, it was hard to stay quiet.” Pai said he and his staff had to consider whether to ignore the IG’s request for confidentiality and instead honor requests from Congress and the public for more information. Schatz said he knew Pai was in a tough position, but added there had to be another way to deal with Congress which has oversight of the agency.
Much to the chagrin of Democrats, with a Republican majority The Commission did roll back net neutrality. Pai added, “We were told for many months that this decision would be ‘the end of the Internet as we know it’ — that if this decision passed you would get the Internet one word at a time. That has proved flatly false. It has been 67 days since the repeal. The Internet is still working.”