Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), pauses while speaking during an open meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
Zach Gibson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Erin Corbett
June 10, 2018

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai lied when he claimed a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack brought down the agency’s comments system in 2014, his predecessor says.

It’s the latest salvo in the controversy over why the FCC’s public comment forum crashed in the middle of the debate over net neutrality rules last year. Pai claimed it was attacked by hackers who deliberately overloaded the servers (a DDoS attack). He doubled down on his claim by saying that the FCC was the victim of a similar attack the last time net neutrality was considered in 2014. And, Pai claimed, the FCC covered it up.

Supporters of net neutrality rules, which Pai opposes, say the FCC is not coming clean about the real reason behind the crash. They argue it was likely a flood of comments supporting net neutrality, or even a simply technical glitch, that brought down the FCC system.

Earlier this week, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Pai’s statements about 2014 FCC site outage were false, Ars Technica reported. No attack was officially reported and there’s a good reason for that, according to Wheeler.

“FCC officials who were there at the time said it didn’t happen,” Wheeler said during a taping of the C-SPAN show, The Communicators, according to Axios. He added, “The independent IT contractors that were hired said it didn’t happen. So if it didn’t happen, it’s hard to have a coverup for something that didn’t happen.”

Adding fuel to the fire was a report from Gizmodo on Tuesday that internal emails confirmed that the FCC did not tell the truth about any alleged DDoS attack. The emails show that FCC officials made false claims of an attack to explain the problems with the comment system.

Since Wheeler’s allegation on Wednesday, the FCC has refused to take questions from reporters, and has prevented the release of records related to the issue through FOIA requests, citing the Trade Secrets Act.

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