The Daily Caller today ran a story entitled Scripted opposition to wireless merger raises credibility questions. The article speaks for itself, going into great detail on how numerous public interest groups and some of their corporate supporters have gamed the FCC comment system to their advantage in the AT&T / T-Mobile merger approval process.
About a month-and-a-half ago I wrote a similar / related blog post, called FCC Web Comments = Non-Random, Non-Credible Poll Results?, in which I questioned the use by the FCC of robo-comments when making decisions at the agency.
One interesting reply comment to my post (and which is relevant to the Daily Caller’s “scripted opposition” story above) came from Brett Glass, who operates a successful W-ISP in Wyoming. In it he notes:
Here’s a data point for consideration. Scanning the list of people who had filed boilerplate comments in an FCC proceeding, I found the name of a customer of my company. I called the customer and asked him, “Do you know that you filed a comment advocating policy that would favor a large corporation at the expense of my small business? One that could possibly prevent me from providing service to you in the future or dramatically increase the cost of service?”
His response: “I only vaguely remember that. I filled it out as an automatic response to a mass mailing. I trusted the group that sent the mailing and did not understand the issue.”
I suspect that the majority of “commenters” who file boilerplate comments have similar stories to tell.
I suspect as much – or more – too. Though the agency cannot control who sends comments to it, it does have a duty to maintain the integrity of its decision-making by ensuring its processes are fair, open and transparent.
Robo-comments, in my mind, do not meet this hurdle. Though we are told the agency “considers” them, one hopes they do not consider them in high regard.