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Liberal ‘Net Neutrality’ Activist Given Vast Subpoena Power

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Liberal political activist Tim Wu is wasting no time using his new power as a member of the New York Attorney General’s staff to issue subpoenas without prior judicial approval to force major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hand over documents and other material.

Wu is known chiefly as a vocal advocate of new federal laws or regulations barring ISPs from charging customers variable rates for moving their content on the Internet.

He ordered Cablevision Systems Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and Time Warner Cable Inc., Oct. 23 to give him proof they process Internet content as fast as they claim, according to copies of the subpoenas that were obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who pushed tougher state regulations on technology companies and emerging sharing-economy stars like Uber, hired Wu in September as senior enforcement counsel to police tech companies. Wu unsuccessfully sought the New York lieutenant governorship last year, running as a Democrat. He was endorsed by the New York Times and Daily Kos.

State legislatures give attorneys general broad authority to demand documents and other records from individuals and companies via administrative subpoenas, which do not require prior approval of a judge based on evidence that satisfies the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause standard. Congress has also given dozens of federal agencies more than 300 administrative subpoena powers.

The subpoenas claim the AG is “authorized to issue subpoenas to assist him in investigating any activity that may be deceptive, fraudulent or illegal. Consequently, we are gathering information to enable us to make a determination of what action, if any, is warranted.”

The subpoenas cited New York Executive Law, Section 63(12), which says, “the attorney-general, his deputy, or other officer, designated by him, is empowered to subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance, examine them under oath before himself or a magistrate, and require that any books, records, documents or papers relevant or material to the inquiry be turned over to him for inspection, examination or audit, pursuant to the civil practice law and rules.”

Spokesmen for Verizon, Time Warner and Cablevision declined to comment on the subpoenas. Attorneys who regularly represent firms receiving administrative subpoenas say companies rarely fight such demands from government officials and bureaucrats.

“Optimum Online (Cablevision) consistently surpasses advertised broadband speeds, including in Federal Communications Commission and internal tests,” said Sarah Chaikin, vice president of media relations for Cablevision. “We are happy to provide any necessary performance information to the Attorney General as we do to our customers.”

“Verizon is confident in the robust and reliable Internet speeds it delivers to subscribers,” Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said. “We look forward to working cooperatively with the Attorney General’s Office.”

Bonomo pointed to a February 2013 Federal Communications Commission report, which found major Internet service providers delivered 97 percent of their advertised download speeds during peak hours, on average, and 107 percent of their advertised upload speeds during peak hours, on average.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.