Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future

Dec. 10 2017 1:29 PM

Report: 1,000 People Own 40 Percent of the Bitcoin Market   

A mere 1,000 people own 40 percent of all bitcoin according to a report from Bloomberg. As the cryptocurrency’s value climbs to new heights, these “bitcoin whales” have even more power to sink or float the market, potentially in coordinated schemes.

 

Dec. 9 2017 1:32 PM

Two New Reports Say Microsoft Overwhelmingly Underpays Women and Stifles Their Career Advancement

Microsoft has been embroiled in a gender pay gap lawsuit for the past two years, fighting allegations that female technical employees at the company are systematically paid less than men and receive fewer opportunities for professional advancement than equally qualified male counterparts.

The plaintiffs filed to make the lawsuit a class action at the end of October and recently released two reports that detail pervasive gender-based discrimination at the $649 billion tech company. One, by Henry Farber, an economics professor at Princeton, analyzed data on more than 16,000 employees’ compensation, age, tenure, geographic location, performance ratings, and other factors between 2010 and 2016. Faber found that women in technical roles in low- to mid-level positions at Microsoft “receive lower compensation on average, than otherwise-similar men, and this difference in pay is statically significant.” Moreover, the report finds that women in mid-level jobs at Microsoft have a statistically significant lower probability of getting promoted.

Advertisement

The other study filed in the case, conducted by Ann Marie Ryan, a psychology professor at Michigan State University, found that Microsoft “does not provide clear, job-related guidance as to how to distinguish levels within a career stage for compensation decisions,” which opens doors for managers to make subjective, and potentially sexist, decisions about career advancement.

The discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft was originally filed in 2015 by Katie Moussouris, a noted computer security researcher who worked for Microsoft for seven years and who is known for her work launching Microsoft’s first bug bounty program in 2013. The discrimination lawsuit against Microsoft was filed months after Ellen Pao lost her lawsuit against her former employer, the storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, alleging Pao was passed over for a senior-level promotion due to her gender.

In a statement to BuzzFeed, Microsoft says that after reviewing the claims, they “strongly disagree with the contentions in the case because data and other information is mischaracterized. We are defending the case in court.”

Microsoft isn’t the only large tech company struggling with a serious gender discrimination lawsuit. Three former female employees at Google filed a lawsuit in September claiming the company "engaged in systemic and pervasive pay and promotion discrimination." On Wednesday, a judge denied them class action status on behalf of women who worked at Google for the past four years, but the plaintiffs plan to press again and file a new, amended complaint. The lawsuit points to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which in April accused Google of systematically underpaying female employees across its entire workforce. The Labor Department also sued Oracle in January for paying white men more than others with the same job title. And in February, Tesla was sued by a female engineer, AJ Vandermeyden, who accused the company of fostering a culture of “pervasive harassment,” paying men more for the same work, and retaliating against her for speaking out. Vandermeyden described how female employees were sexually harassed and even catcalled on the factory floor.

The stretch of the West Coast between Cupertino, California, and Seattle is home to five of the most valuable companies in the world—companies that, despite their billions in cash and cadre of brilliant engineers and executives, can’t seem to figure out how to hire or treat women respectfully or equally. In 2016, Microsoft reported women make up 26 percent of its technical staff, but this year that number has dropped to 19 percent. Google counted that women make up 18 percent of its tech employees in 2015, and now, two years later that dial has only moved up two percentage points. Likewise, Apple’s technical staff was 20 percent female in 2014 and in 2017 that number has notched to 23 percent.

Only in recent years, after women started speaking out, did these companies truly start to take a hard look at trying to fix their massive gender imbalances. But their efforts might be a case of too little, too late—an issue I discussed recently with Pao. “When you start your company and you haven’t thought about these issues and you have set it up a certain way,” she told me, “it ends up becoming extremely difficult to change.”

Dec. 8 2017 5:56 PM

OkCupid Users Have Long Had to Put Up With Unwanted Messages. That's About to Change.

OkCupid announced a big change to its messaging system in an email to users on Friday afternoon. Starting next week, the email said, “Only the people you like or have responded to will remain in your messages. Messages from people you're not interested in, or people you haven't liked yet, will be moved to their profile.”

This shift will bring the platform more in line with other online dating platforms, such as Tinder and Bumble, on which users can’t message one another at all until both have shown interest in the other. The new OkCupid way won’t be quite so strict—users can still send messages to whomever they want, though those messages will only appear in the recipients’ mailboxes if they indicate that they like the sender—but engineers hope it will help seed more connections while filtering out some messages that will never get a response.

Advertisement

Nick Saretzky, OkCupid’s head of product, says the company has been working on the change for nearly two years, inspired in part by feedback from women who were sick of getting harassed by random users or fielding messages from people they’d never want to date. When OkCupid would ask women to compare their Tinder inboxes with their OkCupid ones, Saretzky says, “It kind of felt like, ‘Why is OkCupid letting these people talk to me who I’m not interested in?’ So they get a lot of attention, but they end up having to wade through a lot of it, and they’re not happy with a lot of it.”

Meanwhile, men have told the company that their biggest gripe with OkCupid is that they send a ton of messages to women and get very few replies. Former OkCupid engineer and data scientist Dale Markowitz says one of the main problems with apps with no or low barriers to messaging, like OkCupid, is that a very small proportion of the site’s users get a very high proportion of the site’s messages. Those users are then less likely to respond to any messages, even to people they might be interested in, because they waste a lot of their time picking through random “Hi”s and “ur hot”s.

updated_inbox
The new inbox.

OkCupid

In OkCupid’s new system, users will see blue rings around the profile photos of those who’ve sent them messages and gold rings around those they’ve liked who’ve liked them back. Users who indicate that they like someone can message that person before getting a like back—and if they do, OkCupid will take that as a sign of serious interest, moving them up the recommendation feeds of the objects of their affection. The recipients will only see that message if they choose to click on it. And because eager male users—it’s almost always male users—will know that their messages won’t show up in someone’s mailbox unless that person likes them back, they may choose not to waste their time casting a too-wide net.

“We didn’t want to just go the full Tinder route and say you have to match first [before messaging], because … if someone is very sincerely interested in someone based on their profile—and we have these big, rich profiles—I think it's unfair not to let people message,” Saretzky says. “So we’re trying to strike a new balance that I don’t think anyone has hit so far.”

Markowitz says another major benefit of the new system is that it will help turn passive message-receivers into active participants. “The problem with OkCupid as opposed to Tinder, is that on Tinder, in order to participate in the ecosystem at all, you have to like people,” she says. On OkCupid, people—especially attractive women—could simply make a profile and wait for messages to roll in. These users were way less likely to find good matches on the site, because they weren’t making the effort to find the people who actually interested them. A 2016 OkCupid study of the behavior of 70,000 users found that women who initiated contact with men on the site got much higher response rates than men who did the same, and those women ended up chatting with people more attractive than the average guys who flooded their inboxes. Now, if they want to get anything in their inboxes at all, they’ll have to make a move.

Dec. 8 2017 5:18 PM

It’s Been a Crazy Week in Bitcoin

Bitcoin value charts were a roller coaster this week, as the cryptocurrency broke records one moment and then fell precipitously the next. But it mostly kept climbing and climbing. As of Friday afternoon, bitcoin is up about 45 percent from Sunday morning.

Despite fears of a looming bubble burst, investors have been speculating wildly, many preparing for the Chicago Board Operations Exchange’s inauguration as the first traditional exchange to offer bitcoin futures this coming Sunday.

Advertisement

Here is a look back at the week in bitcoin:

Sunday

It was a day of milestones as bitcoin’s value reached a record high of close to $11,800. Major outlets also began reporting that the Winklevoss twins, who famously sued Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing the idea for Facebook, had become the world’s first bitcoin billionaires. They spent $11 million on the cryptocurrency in 2013, a portion of the $65 million settlement they received from the social network in 2008.

Monday

News of a coming crackdown from regulators in the European Union and United Kingdom aimed at countering the potential use of bitcoin for laundering money, evading taxes, and abetting terrorism brought the value down below $11,000.

The Security and Exchange Commission also announced charges against PlexCorps, an initial coin-offering company that manages a cryptocurrency called PlexCoin, for allegedly violating registration regulations and making unrealistic promises to investors in selling about $15 million in coins. The SEC and IRS have suggested they will be devoting more resources to monitoring cryptocurrencies and are warning investors to watch out for fraudulent offers during the craze.

Tuesday

Bitcoin beat its Sunday record, with its value topping $12,000, bringing the market value for the currency to around $213 billion. The Reserve Bank of India again issued a forceful warning to investors about the risks of trading the cryptocurrency.

Wednesday

Bitcoin’s high climbed past $14,000. But it wasn’t all positive news.

NiceHash, a service that mines bitcoins, announced that about 4,700 coins had been stolen from its digital wallet after someone hacked into its payment system, resulting in a loss of approximately $70 million. Steam, a popular game-purchasing platform, also announced that it would no longer be accepting bitcoin as payment due to high transaction fees and volatility. It once again raised the concern that bitcoin is still basically useless for making payments.

Thursday

Bitcoin again broke its record, rising above $19,000, before falling more than 20 percent to about $15,000.

Coinbase, one of the most intuitive digital cryptocurrency exchanges, became the most downloaded item on Apple’s App Store chart. The app was installed more than 575,000 times in the first week of December. It was only downloaded 177,000 times in the first week of November. The influx of new users, though, caused some issues with functions such as logins. CEO Brian Armstrong warned customers that periods of high trading volume could bring more outages in the future.

Friday

Bitcoin plummeted more than $3,000 in 10 hours—from a high of about $17,000 to a low of about $14,000. By late afternoon on Friday, it had mostly hovered about $16,000. Coinbase fell down to second place on the App Store chart.

Even with the drops, early adopters are still in strong position—bitcoin was worth less than $1,000 in January—as long as they still have their passwords.

Dec. 8 2017 3:37 PM

People Who Can’t Remember Their Bitcoin Passwords Are Really Freaking Out Now

Bitcoin has had quite a week. On Thursday, the cryptocurrency surged past $19,000 a coin before dropping down to $15,600 by Friday midday. The price of a single Bitcoin was below $1,000 in January. Any investors who bought Bitcoins back in 2013, when the price was less than $100, probably feel pretty smart right now.

But not all early cryptocurrency enthusiasts are counting their coins. Instead they might be racking their brains trying to remember their passwords, without which those few Bitcoins they bought as an experiment a few years ago could be locked away forever.

Advertisement

That’s because Bitcoin’s decentralization relies on cryptography, where each transaction is signed with an identifier assigned to the person paying and the person receiving Bitcoin. It’s how the system is able to process large transactions without a central bank, since each exchange is guaranteed by authenticating when money is going from one wallet to another using both public identifiers and private passcodes, and no one can access your Bitcoin wallet without your private password. If someone else somehow had your password and swiped your coins, they’re gone for good. Passwords are used to unlock your bitcoin wallet address, and if you forgot your password, those coins are locked away. There’s no central point of control to help retrieve your Bitcoin or change your password. If there was an easy means of cracking open people’s Bitcoin wallets when a password was lost, the cryptocurrency would be worthless, since the whole point is security without centralization.

“I’ve tried to ignore the news about Bitcoin completely,” joked Alexander Halavais, a professor of social technology at Arizona State University, who said he bought $70 of Bitcoin about seven years ago as a demonstration for a graduate class he was teaching at the time but has since forgotten his password. “I really don’t want to know what it’s worth now,” he told me.

“This is possibly $400K and I’m freaking the fuck out. I’m a college student so this would change my life lmao,” wrote one Reddit user last week. The user claimed to have bought 40 bitcoins in 2013 but can’t remember the password now.

“A few years ago, I bought about 20 euros worth of bitcoin, while it was at around 300eur/btc.,” lamented another Reddit user earlier this week. “Haven’t looked at it since, and recently someone mentioned the price had hit 10.000usd. So, I decided to take a look at my wallet, but found that it wasn’t my usual password. I have tried every combination of the password variations I usually use, but none of them worked.”

Another Redditor said he or she had so much inaccessible Bitcoin after to losing the wallet identifier that the poster offered $20,000 to anyone who could recover the Bitcoins. These stories are starting to rack up on Reddit—and it’s possible some are hoaxes—as Bitcoin’s incredible climb jogs their memories of buying $9 of cryptocurrency on a lark.

Others are trying to access the Bitcoin wallets of people in their family who have died and apparently taken their Bitcoin passwords to the grave. In one particularly sad case on Reddit on Thursday, a person shared a story about how their brother-in-law, who was an early investor in Bitcoin and took his own life, leaving his wife and six-month-old in great financial need. The family had his computer, but no instructions for how to retrieve the Bitcoin, which could be extremely valuable now.

All of which means if you or someone you love is riding high on a Bitcoin investment you made when everyone thought it was just a geeky fad, it’s probably best to make sure the password is stored somewhere safe and retrievable, at least to one other person. Life comes at you fast.

Dec. 7 2017 4:08 PM

Can You Trust Navigation Apps During a Major Emergency?

At least five wildfires have been blazing in Southern California over the past week, engulfing tens of thousands of acres and more than 150 homes.

 

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Los Angeles Police Department advised drivers not to consult navigation apps, which it said were instructing users to drive towards streets in areas that are on fire because they are less crowded at the moment.

 

Dec. 7 2017 1:46 PM

When It Comes to Wildfires, How Many Times Can We Say the Same Things?

Take two implacable forces. One sends dry winds surging down mountains like an avalanche over combustible brush. The other pushes houses and strip malls, the perimeter of an aggressive urban economy, against those same winds, mountains, and brush. Each time these forces clash, we see the same powerful call: We must halt future flames. Then another conflagration comes, indifferent to those responses, that yields another paramilitary surge in reply. But the fundamentals don’t change, so the fires and their damages don’t change. They only intensify.

This year’s fires are nothing new. They only seem new to those with short memories. For most of the 20th century, they were called big fires or conflagrations, and they burned worse in the fall when the great winds blew. The 1977 season continued until New Year’s Eve, when the Honda Canyon Fire ripped through Vandenberg Air Force Base and killed four men, including the base commander and fire chief. Then, beginning in 1987 with lightning-kindled mass ignitions in Northern California, the outbreaks became fire sieges. The fire sieges have come with a rhythm: 1993, 2003, 2007, 2017. A 10-year interval seems enough to smother the horror with forgetfulness.

Advertisement

So long as the Diablo or Santa Ana winds flow, the fires are unstoppable. Worse, the winds can fan every stray spark into a potential eruption and can even kindle fires by causing power lines to fail. Bigger airtankers and more engines can’t halt the rush of flame or, more critically, the blizzard of embers that ignite fires far in advance of the flaming front. The fires can leap eight-lane freeways. The embers seek out every point of vulnerability.

What can be done? It depends on how the problem is defined.

The expression “wildland-urban interface” was first coined in Southern California to describe the problematic pyric border between city and country, the line in the brush where house and wildland met. As the concept spread (along with fires) to other parts of the United States, it referred to more of an intermix, where the built and natural environments often mingled promiscuously. The border represented two styles of fire protection, each as distinct as their fuels. Initially, the concept focused on protecting homes by addressing the wildland side.

Yet the wildland side offers few options. Simple firefighting fails when the Santa Ana winds howl. That leaves modifying the vegetation—specifically, in Southern California, a shrub community commonly called chaparral—or introducing prescribed fire. But many of the treatments advocated elsewhere don’t apply or come at serious ecological costs, particularly when invasive grasses hover in the shadows waiting for a point of entry. Short of stripping every biological value from the land surrounding buildings or paving over every open space, the fires will still come. Even fire scientists, while agreeing on the basics, disagree over how to apply their knowledge.

So it might better be considered from the urban side. We know how to use codes and zoning to reduce vulnerability in cities and harden the home ignition zone where sparks will meet structures. Besides, once such fires breach the city perimeter, they spread like urban, not wildland, conflagrations. Paradoxically, trees often survive better than houses.

In the end, it’s a political decision, not a scientific question. We can’t really level the mountains or dam the winds. We seem unable to halt the push of urban sprawl. Not unlike mass shootings, we seem to be willing to accept the occasional if rising violence as a cost of how we live. It all merges into a numbing background noise. And what was once a California quirk is becoming a national norm. Such fires are spreading and the damages they inflict are worsening. They now range from Fort McMurray, Canada, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

It’s tempting to lay much of the blame on climate change, which is disrupting and lengthening fire seasons. But global warming is only one expression of the deeper consequences of how a fossil-fuel civilization occupies landscapes and what can happen when those settings are, like California’s, prone to eruptive fire.

It determines what kind of housing we prefer, how we site and arrange those houses, how we move goods and get to jobs. It shapes how we conceive and interact with our natural surroundings. (We even fight wildfire with pumps and planes that burn fossil fuel.) It determines what kind of power sources we promote and how we transmit energy to where we live. That powerlines have become a significant cause of ignition during extreme conditions is a dandy illustration of how the issues are structural and not easily corrected, and how they are only marginally under the control of the fire services. Deep reform will not come quickly: The lag in the existing system will continue at least for many decades. Even if the U.S. were to seriously tackle the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, those from the rest of the world would still affect the fire season. We need responses sooner.

We may have to accept that, in places like Southern California, there is no rational solution,only temporary accommodations. Still, many small tweaks are possible. They are worth making. They won’t fix the problem—they certainly won’t make fire go away—but they can reduce damages. Future fires could then come like a bad blizzard or an annoying dust storm rather than a razing inferno. Instead of tightening the mainspring further, we can begin, bit by bit, to unwind it.

Update, Dec. 7, 2017: Due to an editing error, this piece was originally published without its final two paragraphs.

Dec. 6 2017 6:46 PM

Bitcoin Is Still Basically Useless for Making Payments

Steam, a popular platform for buying video games, announced on Wednesday that it will no longer be accepting payment in the form of bitcoin because of the volatility of its worth and transaction fees.

Valve, the company that owns Steam, noted the value for Bitcoin only stays stable for a certain period of time and can change before a transaction has been completed. The statement announcing the decision reads, in part, “At this point, it has become untenable to support Bitcoin as a payment option. We may re-evaluate whether Bitcoin makes sense for us and for the Steam community at a later date.”

Advertisement

Valve’s shirking of bitcoin is another development in a broader debate about the usefulness of the cryptocurrency. There are some major companies, such as Microsoft and DISH, accepting bitcoin payment, but few others have followed suit. Its volatility and transaction costs are a common sticking point for those looking to use it as a currency, yet the possible solutions to these pitfalls could imperil the decentralization that makes bitcoin appealing in the first place. 

For example, transactions can often get bottlenecked, so some users have suggested expanding the network’s capacity. But if the expansion occurs too quickly, many assert that only big banks and companies would have the resources to record the wealth of transactions.

There was in fact a proposal to double Bitcoin’s capacity in November, but users voted it down. However, the Bitcoin Cash fork, which was created in August and allows for a greater volume of transactions, could give us a glimpse into whether these concerns are merited. Bitstamp, one of the most established exchanges for cryptocurrency, announced that it would trade Bitcoin Cash in November.

The concerns have not stopped bitcoin from reaching record after record this month. The value of a bitcoin hit $10,000 for the first time near the end of last month. It traded at more than $14,000 on Wednesday.

Dec. 6 2017 6:00 PM

Zimbabwe’s Internet Went Down for About Five Hours. The Culprit Was Reportedly a Tractor.

Zimbabweans lost internet access en masse on Tuesday when a tractor reportedly cut through key fiber-optic cables in South Africa and another internet provider experienced simultaneous issues with its primary internet conduits. The outage began shortly before noon local time and persisted for more than five hours, affecting not only citizens’ day-to-day internet usage but businesses that rely upon web access. And while five internet-free hours might sound unfathomable to those of us accustomed to having the web constantly at our fingertips, large-scale internet outages—from inadvertent lapses caused by ship anchors to government-calculated blackouts designed to showcase political power—do happen, and maybe more frequently than you’d thought.

According to local news sources, a tractor in South Africa damaged cables belonging to Liquid Telecom, which has an 81.5 percent market share of Zimbabwe’s international-equipped internet bandwidth as of the second quarter of 2017 and leases capacity to other internet providers. In a bad coincidence, city council employees in Kuwadzana, a suburb of Zimbabwe’s capitol city of Harare, cut an additional TelOne cable around the same time. (According to NewsDay Zimbabwe, it was an accident. The company blamed “faults that occurred on our main links through South Africa and Botswana” in a statement.)

Advertisement

While a TelOne backup link through Mozambique remained intact, it couldn’t make up for the lost bandwidth. Together, Liquid Telecom and TelOne account for 96.5 percent of the market share of international-equipped internet bandwidth in Zimbabwe, so their cable struggles amounted to a country-wide problem. A graph of internet activity in Zimbabwe provided to Slate by content delivery network Akamai shows a precipitous drop midday Tuesday to levels normally only seen during the wee hours of the night.

And the cable-slicing didn’t only affect the internet: South African news site Fin24 reported that the outage had also affected phone service and access to social media applications like WhatsApp.

“This should not happen,” Supa Mandiwanzira, who assumed the title of minister of information communication technology and cyber security after Robert Mugabe’s forced resignation this November, said, according to NewsDay Zimbabwe. “There should be redundancy plans in place, and I wonder why these did not kick in. If we find that these companies were not truthful with us, we will revoke their licenses,” he said.

The internet is increasingly part of daily life in Zimbabwe. As of 2016, roughly 50 percent of Zimbabweans have internet access—up from only 5 percent in 2010. It is not without its problems, though. Freedom House’s 2017 “Freedom on the Net” report listed Zimbabwe’s internet as “Partly Free,” citing “government efforts to exert greater control over the country’s ICT market and internet infrastructure.”

Given that record, it may be reasonable to wonder whether the government could have cut internet access. But according to the state-owned newspaper The Herald, though, Mandiwanzira denied that the government had any role the internet outage. Peter Micek, general counsel of the open-internet nonprofit Access Now, agreed. “Trust in authorities remains brittle in Zimbabwe,” he acknowledged in an email, but he added, “We believe this outage was coincidental, not intentional” due to the confirmation from the internet service providers of technical outages.

But Julie Owono, executive director of Internet Sans Frontieres, expressed more doubt via email:

As a member of the #Keepiton coalition, Internet Without Borders questions the simultaneity of these cable cuts. To quash doubts, Liquid Telecom and TelOne should be transparent and make public detailed reports explaining the precise circumstances of the cable cuts. It is also urgent that Zimbabwe's new government commits to guaranteeing the online human rights of its citizens by refusing to voluntarily cut the country from the Internet, especially for political reasons.

Governments intentionally cutting off internet access is a big problem worldwide. Between January and October of this year, Access Now recorded more than 60 internet shutdowns of varying severity. African countries like Cameroon, Egypt, The Gambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have limited internet use in the past to quell political unrest, and in 2016, Mugabe’s administration raised prices on cellphone service following the largest protest in a decade, a move that many thought was intended to limit social media use by activists.

The South African tractor that apparently wiped out broadband in Zimbabwe is far from the only unexpected cause of infrastructural havoc. In 2011, The Telegraph reported on a 75-year-old woman who cut through a cable in the country Georgia while foraging for scrap metal, unintentionally taking away 90 percent of Armenia’s internet access for half a day. But Hayastan Shakarian insisted, “I have no idea what the internet is.” In 2008, a ship’s anchor damaged a cable providing web and phone access to a large swathe of the Middle East. Google wraps its underwater cables in a ballistic-resistant protective coating to prevent sharks from biting through the Internet-giving conduits. And we would be remiss to not mention cybersquirrel1.com, a tongue-in-cheek site tracking the many instances of squirrel and other wildlife-caused power disruptions.

Fortunately, Zimbabwe was only internet-less for a handful of hours, but let those long email, social media, and online-shopping-free minutes serve as a warning to tractor drivers to check their routes just a little bit more carefully in the future.

Dec. 6 2017 5:43 PM

FCC Chairman Rushing to Crush Net Neutrality Complained in 2014 About Rushed Process to Enshrine It

If all goes according to plan for Ajit Pai, the Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, network neutrality will be officially undone by the end of next week. The FCC is scheduled vote on Dec. 14, and the Republican majority is expected to approve Pai’s plan to repeal the open internet regulations that have been in place since 2015. The next step will be for the repeal of the net neutrality rules to be officially published, which could happen as early as January 2018. After that, internet providers will be permitted to charge websites to access users at faster speeds. Sites that can’t afford (or don’t want) to pay up will find themselves slowed down and harder to reach.

The timeline is a fast one—Pai only introduced his plan to undo the hard-won Obama-era net neutrality protections in May—and the two Democratic FCC commissioners say it needs to be slowed way down. They point to the unprecedented amount of public engagement the issue has attracted and the seriously flawed public comment process. Millions of Americans have flooded the FCC’s website to share how Pai’s proposal to lift network neutrality protections will impact them, but there have also been comments from dead people and bots that were suspiciously in favor of undoing the net neutrality rules, as well as a cyberattack on the FCC’s comment system that is currently under investigation from the Government Accountability Office. On top of all that, a Pew study released last week found that 94 percent of the comments submitted to the FCC were posted multiple times and 57 percent were tied to temporary or duplicate email addresses. Only 3 percent of the comments submitted were found to have passed through the FCC’s email-verification procedure.

Advertisement

All of which is why Commissioner Jessica Rosenworchel told Slate in a recent interview that before the open internet rules are officially repealed, the FCC should hold public hearings across the country to get a better idea of what Americans think about the proposed changes. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also called for public hearings in a Medium post last week.

Back in May 2014, Pai himself complained that the FCC was moving too fast on net neutrality changes.  “Indeed, on several recent issues, many say that the Commission has spent too much time speaking at the American people and not enough time listening to them,” Pai said in response to then-Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed open internet regulations, which at the time drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats on the commission. Rosenworcel had already called to delay the vote in order to ensure that there had been enough time for the American people to speak up and for the FCC to consider the public response. In his remarks, Pai agreed, saying, “Going forward, we need to give the American people a full and fair opportunity to participate in this process. And we must ensure that our decisions are based on a robust record.”

But Pai’s office hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment as to whether he’s open to the delaying the vote, despite the numerous documented irregularities in the public comment process. Pai said at a House subcommittee in July that one thing that would make him open to reconsidering his plan to repeal the network neutrality rules would be a convincing argument that investment in internet infrastructure actually on the rise following the implantation of the Obama-era regulations. Had the chairman been on Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon’s investor calls since the rules passed, however, he would learn that all claimed that investment in their networks had actually increased since the network neutrality rules were passed, as I reported in July.

Pai wanted to slow down the FCC back when he was in the minority and he opposed the direction in which the commission was headed. Now that he’s in power, Pai wants his plan, the final language of which was officially shared two days before Thanksgiving, to sail through without delay—no matter how broken and corrupt the public participation process has been.

READ MORE STORIES