It is Time to take the FCC to Court

Huffington Post

Since the beginning of 2017, the FCC has been a path of destruction with the overarching theme to erase all laws, regulations and consumer protections and to let a few very large monopolies/duopolies (or oligopoly)—Verizon, AT&T, Centurylink, and the cable companies—do what they want at your expense.

And this FCC can follow this path because there are only three current commissioners (out of a full complement of five), where the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, controls the agenda with the second Republican Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly. This means that the only Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, (who has always taken a pro-consumer position), will lose every vote, but rather it means that the American Public loses as well.

Much of the FCC’s destructive path is well known to most:

  • Block Privacy Rules: The FCC (with Congress) has blocked the implementation of the previous FCC administration’s new privacy rules from going forward. Blocking this new rule allows the phone and cable companies to sell the customer’s information to advertisers and give their own affiliate companies the ability to spy and track customers’ purchases, friends, contacts, etc., on multiple devices.
  • Erasing the Net Neutrality rules is next and there will be a flurry of activities to stop the new FCC’s plans to neuter customer protections.

But there are other areas that have gotten little or no attention and they are at the core of your communications.

  • Erase Basic Accounting Rules: The very first official FCC meeting was used to erase some of the basic accounting rules,

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BDS Deregulation Foes: FCC’s Plan Raises Legal Issues

Broadcasting & Cable, April 18th, 2017

Groups working hard to block or delay the proposed FCC deregulation of broadband business data services (BDS) teamed up for a conference call with reporters Tuesday as the clock wound down on the planned April 20 vote, saying the proposal was dangerous, anti-consumer, and susceptible to court challenge for being arbitrary and contrary to the FCC’s charter on guaranteeing reasonable rates.

On that call were representatives of Public Knowledge, Consumer Federation of America, INCOMPAS, and the Open Technology Institute, who want the FCC to delay the vote so it can supply some of the economic expertise the chairman has been touting to the data—or failing that to at least provide a three-year transition period so some of the “nearby” competition can come closer.

The groups said that the proposal by FCC chairman Ajit Pai was arbitrary and capricious because it was based on a massive data collection on which his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, based an entirely different conclusion in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from which the BDS order being voted this week stems. Wheeler’s proposal concluded that the BDS marketplace was not particularly competitive, a conclusion with which the groups heartily agree. Pai’s proposal assumes it is generally competitive and getting more so and that the presence of nearby competition and two competitors in a market demonstrated that competiveness.

Phillip Berenbroick, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge, called the Pai proposal doubling down on consolidation and debunked theories that competition in the BDS market is “just around the corner.” Chip Pickering of INCOMPAS suggested that the idea that nearby competition was sufficient was the equivalent of saying “one is enough,” which he called a “dangerous, dangerous” test for competitive markets and one that would hurt small businesses, consumers and investment.

Michael Calabrese of the Open Technology Institute also warned that the proposal would undermine wireless broadband because of how dependent wireless is on BDS backhaul services—wireless traffic travels from cell sites over wired (fiber) broadband nets. He said that as much as 30% of cell service operating expenses comes from that BDS backhaul, which they are required to buy at uncompetitive prices from incumbents that are also dominant mobile carriers. He said that is a high-priced fiber diet that the Pai proposal will make even higher.

Pickering, a former Republican congressman from Mississippi, said the Pai proposal was running against the Trump deregulatory tide with respect to education and healthcare and other issues, where the goal was competition and lower prices and that for schools, libraries and small businesses, it would amount to a no bid contract for critical connectivity.

Trump’s FCC Votes to Allow Broadband Rate Hikes for Schools and Libraries

Another day, another anti-consumer corporate giveaway.

President Trump’s recently-installed Federal Communications Commission chief, Republican Ajit Pai, has made clear that he wants to roll back US rules protecting net neutrality, the principle that all internet content should be equally accessible to consumers.

But the forthcoming Republican assault on net neutrality is just one component of an escalating effort by Trump’s FCC to deregulate the broadband industry in ways that benefit corporate giants like AT&T and Verizon, and hurt consumers, according to public interest advocates.

For example, the FCC voted today to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The price caps, which have been in place for years, are designed to protect small businesses and other community institutions from predatory behavior by monopoly broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon.

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FCC helps AT&T and Verizon charge more by ending broadband price caps

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to eliminate price caps in much of the business broadband market by imposing a new standard that deems certain local markets competitive even when there’s only one broadband provider.

“What this order does is open the door to immediate price hikes for small business broadband service in rural areas and hundreds of communities across the country,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said in a detailed dissent. “Cash-strapped hospitals, schools, libraries, and police departments will pay even more for vital connectivity.”

While there are no price caps on home Internet service, the FCC does limit the prices of so-called Business Data Services (BDS) provided by incumbent phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink. The services are delivered over copper-based TDM networks and are commonly used for “connecting bank ATM networks and retail credit-card readers [and] providing enterprise business networks with access to branch offices, the Internet, or the cloud,” the FCC said.

One ISP choice counts as competition

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STOP ALL IMPORTANT FCC VOTES UNTIL THERE ARE THE REQUIRED 5 COMMISSIONERS.

I believe that the potted plants, as shown in the picture above, are not a substitute for the two FCC commissioners that are missing from this picture and should be helping to add balance to the lopsided reign of terror currently underway. While three FCC commissioners legally constitutes a quorum, I’d trust the votes of the potted plants, (Dieffenbachia, I believe) over this group.

There are supposed to be 5, I repeat, 5 commissioners at the FCC. There are now only 3, with only 1 person, Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, calling the shots. (More likely, there is undue influence from the Executive branch making decisions to remove basic privacy rights and coming up— to trash Net Neutrality.)

On April 20th, 2017 the FCC is going to have a meeting and it is going to be a consumer and competitor bloodbath. The FCC has already put forth their proposed rules in multiple areas, including the “IP Transition”, to the hotly contested “Broadband Data Services”. But, the overall plan is to remove all regulations and obligations on the incumbent phone utility companies: AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink. (You didn’t know that they are still ‘utilities’?)

In short, this is an all out assault on the public interest. And I’ll come back to what’s about to happen in a moment.

Just to recap, the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has taken control of the FCC with the help of his other Republican Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly. This has left a vacuum and a guarantee that there will be no serious discussion of any FCC decision because there is one Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, and she is not a lawyer. There was initially some lip service to have a former Dem Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel return, but that would have created, well, a stalemate with 2 Dems and 2 Republicans.

The FCC Wants to Hide All Controversial Cross-Subsidies and Manipulations of AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink’s Financial Accounting.

In a very inside-baseball proceeding  (the Jurisdictional Separations and Referral to the Federal-State Joint Board)  that has not gotten any attention, the FCC has requested an 18 month extension  to examine the cost allocation rules that are applied to revenues and expenses  of AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink’s state utilities, which they control.

The problem is that the FCC has been taking extensions in the same, exact  proceeding for 16 years (which we will discuss). This takes the phrase “kicking  the bucket down the road” to a whole new level of government cover-up.

And this proceeding is critical. In a meeting scheduled for April 20th, 2017,  the FCC is steam-rollering and doing a hatchet job on upcoming proposals that  will be discussed. From Broadband Data Services, (BDS), to the shutting off the  copper networks, or the IP Transition, the FCC plans to gut all customer  protections, block competition, and harm all businesses that rely on these data  services, (formerly called “Special Access”).

So, how can the agency, then, attempt to shut down and delay examination of the  accounting rules that are directly tied to these other items?

On April 17th, 2017 we filed comments  with the FCC to start immediate audits and investigations of the cross-subsidies  of the incumbent phone companies, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink. As we document, Verizon’s own financial accounting revealed massive manipulations of the  financial books created by the FCC’s “Big Freeze” and negligence. But this is  happening in every state because the FCC rules are federal, not state-based.

Privacy & Net Neutrality on Chopping Block

The FCC’s plan to kill net neutrality will also kill internet privacy,

The Verge, April 11th, 2017

“After Congress repealed the FCC’s broadband privacy rules two weeks ago, new FCC chairman Ajit Pai promised the American people that he would ensure that the personal information they give to their ISPs would continue to be protected. Pai said that he planned to work with the Federal Trade Commission to “restore the FTC’s authority to police internet service providers’ privacy practices.”

“But this plan will not only fail to provide effective broadband privacy protections, it will come at the cost of eliminating the FCC’s net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs like Comcast and AT&T from picking winners and losers on the internet. And there’s a real chance the FTC actually won’t be able to regulate ISPs at all.”

NYC Sues Verizon of Fiber Optics; AG Sues Spectrum Cable Over Deceptive Speeds

 1 million NYC homes can’t get Verizon FiOS, so the city just sued Verizon

Nearly 1 million New York households do not have access to Verizon’s fiber-based FiOS service. Verizon says it has brought its network to 2.2 million NYC residences, while the city has an estimated 3.1 million households.

The city government’s complaint in the New York State Supreme Court seeks a declaration that Verizon is in breach of its obligations and an order to complete the project. The 2008 agreement, which gave Verizon a citywide cable television franchise, said Verizon must “pass all households” with its fiber-to-the-premises network by June 30, 2014. The agreement covered only cable television, but the fiber build-out also provided faster Internet speeds because the same fiber is used to deliver both services.

Click to Read the Complaint:

 

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Lawsuit Against Spectrum-Time Warner Cable And Charter Communications For Allegedly Defrauding New Yorkers Over Internet Speeds And Performance, February 1st, 2017

Complaint Alleges Nation’s Second-Largest Internet Service Provider Systematically And Knowingly Failed To Deliver The Reliable And Fast Internet Access It Promised To Subscribers Across The State

Suit Seeks To Compensate Spectrum-Time Warner Cable Subscribers For Five Years Of Broken Promises And Damages And Restitution That Could Be Worth Upwards Of Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars

Click Here To Read The Full Complaint Filed In NY State Supreme Court