WASHINGTON — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai condemned a threat made against a New York congressman over net neutrality, which has become a volatile policy debate in the lead up to a Dec. 14 vote to roll back many of the existing regulations.
Patrick D. Angelo, 28, of Syracuse, N.Y., was arrested and charged with threatening Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), pictured above. He made an initial appearance in court on Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney claims that Angelo left a message on Katko’s voicemail, which stated, “Listen Mr. Katko, if you support net neutrality, I will support you. But if you don’t support net neutrality, I will find you and your family and I will kill … you … all. Do you understand?”
According to prosecutors, the message continued, “I will literally find all … of … you and your progeny and t- just wipe you from the face of the earth. Net neutrality is more important than the defense of the United States. Net neutrality is more important than free speech. Net neutrality is more important than health care. Net neutrality is literally the basis of the new society. That even if you don’t understand, how important it is, net neutrality is literally the basis of the new … free … society. So if you don’t support it, I am willing to lay down my li-” The recording then ended.
Katko’s office reported the voicemail to the United States Capitol Police, which then coordinated with the FBI. They traced the telephone number to Angelo, federal prosecutors said.
Katko was formerly an assistant U.S. attorney in the northern district of New York, so that office was recused from pursuing the case and it was instead sent to the western district.
A detention hearing is scheduled for Dec. 1.
Last week, Pai proposed repealing most of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, including rules that prohibit internet providers from blocking or throttling content, or from selling “fast lanes” so certain sites and content can get speedier access to consumers.
The proposal has drawn an extensive outcry from internet activists and public interest groups, especially on social media, as a threat to the existing internet ecosystem. But Pai has complained that he and his family have been harassed, including messages that have been posted outside their home.
In a statement, Pai said. “I condemn in the strongest possible terms any attempts to intimidate government officials with violent threats, and in particular, efforts to target their families. I would also like to express my sympathy to Congressman Katko and his family and thank law enforcement officials for taking this matter seriously.”
The harassment has also been condemned by those who oppose Pai’s proposal, including Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps.
A court appointed public defender, assigned to represent Angelo, said that he had no comment.