Last week’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle net neutrality, or regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, has a lot of people talking. The regulations were passed in February 2015, but the FCC, under new director Ajit Pai, revisited the issue with a new administration in place.

It’s a very complex issue in an area that few people truly understand, although that hasn’t stopped the chatter about the rollback of regulations.

Pai claims the provisions used to ensure net neutrality are “last-century, utility-style regulation” that creates uncertainty in the market. He believes less regulation is more beneficial to growth and innovation.

Opponents say the change is expected to hurt consumers by allowing internet service providers to block or throttle access by users unless they pay more. However, it isn’t only consumers who oppose dismantling net neutrality. Software companies, such as Google and Netflix, oppose the change because telecom companies could also force companies that market to consumers to pay for faster connections, creating “fast lanes” that prioritize certain services over others.

The intricacies of the net neutrality argument get quite complex, requiring an in-depth knowledge of technology to follow. With such new technology, it is probably a guess what will happen in the future. After all, just a decade ago who would have thought internet service would be a necessity in every far reach of our country, from the rural farms of our area to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area?

Besides, the more interesting part of this process was the public comment portion leading up to the decision by the FCC. The 3.7 million comments indicated a lot of interest in the subject. Or did it?

It turned out that much of the public input wasn’t what it appeared. It wasn’t “fake news” in play here, but “fake comments.”

The Pew Research Center took a close look at the comments, discovering that 94 percent of the comments were submitted multiple times, and in some cases, many hundreds of thousands of times.

Campaigns organized to influence public policy isn’t anything new, but this turned out to be on a completely different level. For one thing there were a lot of duplicate names, including someone named “The Internet” submitting 17,000 comments.

Further investigation found that real people also had their names falsely used. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who is suing to stop the decision to overturn net neutrality, detailed fake comments from each state, finding up to 50,000 fake comments from Minnesota alone.

Some of the fake comments involving real people are interesting. Sean Astin told media that her mother, Patty Duke, had her name used in three separate comments in support of ending net neutrality more than a year after she died.

Even former President Barack Obama supposedly got into the act. A comment posted in May from Obama, with an address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House), stated: “The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation...The plan currently under consideration at the FCC to repeal Obama’s Title II power grab is a positive step forward and will help to promote a truly free and open internet for everyone.”

Somehow, that doesn’t sound like Obama, who hasn’t had a change of heart on his past policies despite the push by the new administration to dismantle as many of them as possible.

Just like the election process, Russians are thought to be involved in this issue. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said half a million of the fake comments originated from Russian email addresses.

"Agencies open up their doors, in effect ask the American people to tell them what they think about proposed rules, how their lives might be changed by them," she said. "It is essential that we come up with ways to manage the integrity of that process in the digital age."

That is a key point. Free and open internet access aided by net neutrality may be important, but the integrity of processes in the digital age are more key. Technology people only dreamed about decades ago is changing our society in ways never imagined.

Fabricated “news” stories that bear no resemblance to reality confuse voters in elections. Public “comments” with fabricated identities clog up the review process. Fake emails front scams trying to lure people into giving up pieces of their identity. The list could go on.

We may demand fast internet to our homes, but in the end we’re losing trust in our way of life, in our institutions, in each other. Technology can’t be blamed for all of these damages, but it certainly appears to be hastening a demise of our own doing.