Senior US officials urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to postpone a scheduled vote on net neutrality to investigate reports fake comments were submitted during a consultation process.

A group of 28 US senators called for the vote to be delayed in a letter sent to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, claiming “there is good reason to believe that the record may be replete with fake or fraudulent comments, suggesting your proposal is fundamentally flawed.” They pressed Pai to delay the ballot “until you can conduct a thorough review of the state of the record and provide Congress with greater assurance of its accuracy and completeness”.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman backed the senators’ claim during a press conference with FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. He indicated the identities of at least 50,000 New York residents were used to enter fraudulent comments during a public consultation and said the number of identities stolen nationwide could top 1 million.

Schneiderman noted his attempts to investigate the issue have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the FCC. He urged the commission to aid his inquiry, and also called on federal investigators to launch their own probe.

The FCC is set to vote on a rollback of net neutrality regulations at a meeting on 14 December. But questions have swirled about the validity of the more than 22 million public comments submitted as part of the FCC’s rulemaking process.

A recent analysis from the Pew Research Center found nearly 60 per cent of comments submitted for the record used temporary or duplicate email addresses and determined only 3 per cent of comments went through an email validation process before being accepted.

Beyond fraudulent comments, Rosenworcel indicated there are other concerns with the proceeding, including a supposed denial of service attack which temporarily disabled the comment filing system in May and the case of 50,000 missing comments which were submitted, but don’t appear in the record.

“When you add all that up, what you have is a record that’s hard to trust,” Rosenworcel said, adding: “it is incumbent on the FCC and all of my colleagues to stand back, figure out what’s happening with this record before us, and get to the bottom of these stolen identities.”