IRREGULATORS Take the FCC to Court Based on Verizon New York 2017 Annual Report. Billions Revealed in Cross-Subsidies Caused by the FCC’s Manipulated Accounting Rules. This is Happening Nationwide.
On June 3rd, 2019, the IRREGULATORS won Round 1, the right to take the FCC to court over their cost accounting rules. However, the case relies on the Verizon New York financial annual reports, the latest published May 30th, 2019. It is one of the largest accounting scandals in American history and it impacts all telecommunications in the United States – and all FCC decisions and proceedings, and almost all state decisions that relied on the FCC’s work.
PRESS: We created a by-the-numbers walk-through of the official Verizon New York 2017 Annual Report to spotlight some of the specific harms.
The FCC’s rules were supposed to divide up the expenses that are to be paid by the different lines of business, such as Verizon Wireless or Verizon Online, for the use of the infrastructure and services of the state telecommunications utility – Verizon New York.
Unfortunately, the rules became corrupted and the expenses to be paid are set, “frozen”, to reflect the year 2000, 19 years ago. Using the Verizon New York annual reports, we prove that the rules are still in use and they now divert the majority of all expenses into Local Service, the basic POTS, phone service category. This has caused billions of dollars annually to be misallocated by charging phone customers excessive Corporate Operations expenses, everything from the corporate jets and golf tournaments to executive pay. It also diverted the construction budgets to pay for the wireless deployments. And Verizon was able to create losses that were used not only for rate increases, but to avoid paying billions in taxes. Ultimately, Verizon claims it is not profitable to upgrade rural or low income areas and is now planning a bait-and-switch, claiming 5G wireless will fix everything.
How crazy does it get?
Verizon NY 2017 Local Service was charged $1.8 billion, 61%, of Corporate Operations expense, making it unprofitable. Local Service had revenues of $1.1 billion. (“61%” is based entirely on the FCC’s FREEZE and it has been this way for 2 decades.)
Taxes: The Verizon NY 2017 Annual Report showed losses of $2.6 billion and a tax benefit of over $900 million. Verizon NY has shown losses of over $2 billion a year for almost the last decade, (with caveats).
Construction: Local Service paid the majority, $1.2 billion, in construction and maintenance, but only an estimated hundred million was attributed to the copper wires.
The NY Attorney General’s Office in 2012 found 75% of the utility construction budgets were being diverted to wireless or FiOS video services. This is instead of upgrading the NYC and NY State infrastructure.
Rates Increases of Over 100%: Since 2005, every wireline customer paid over $3,000 a line based on increases granted using artificial losses, through 2018.
It Created the Digital Divide by claiming areas of the state utility were unprofitable, when, in reality, there was enough money to have been doing continuous upgrades. In fact, rates should have been in steep decline.
This happened in every state because the FCC rules are federal. The last available data in 2007 matched in every state-based utility.
Customer overcharging, nationwide, is estimated to be $50-60 billion annually, based on what is happening in New York.
IRREGULATORS v FCC — In December, 2018, the FCC decided to extend the FREEZE rules for 6 more years. We could not let this stand and get worse. We have the actual financial books as well as the expertise to figure out what happened, but it has taken almost a decade of investigation to understand this accounting puzzle. No other state we know of still publishes financial reports; the FCC stopped publishing the financials in 2007. We filed 18 separate reports and comments in this proceeding (Docket 80-286) to document our claims since 2015, which the FCC has mostly ignored. http://irregulators.org/our-work-reports-filings/
Settlement with Verizon NY and the NY Public Service Commission, July 2018: Our analysis and methodology was used in an investigation of Verizon New York that started in 2015 and was settled in July 2018. Estimated at $300-$500 million, 32,000 lines of fiber optics will be deployed in unserved areas and the existing networks will be maintained. But this settlement did not go far enough to fix the existing problems or deal with the FCC’s corrupted accounting. https://bit.ly/2O25OqQ
The Bottom Line: No one knows or understands that the FCC’s rules have become corrupted over the last 2 decades, that they actually control the state-utility accounting and that they are still in use, nationwide. Stopping the Corporate Operations expenses, the cross-subsidies of the other Verizon lines of business with the state telecommunications utility, especially wireless, and making them pay market prices, will immediately lower rates on all services – not just basic phone service, and could bring billions back to do full upgrades of the telecommunication wired infrastructure. Cleaning up this long standing financial shell game also solves some of the Digital Divide concerns and could even create financial support as part of any settlement.
5G is not profitable once the cross-subsidies for wireless are removed. 5G is nothing more than another technology promise-them-anything bait-and-switch to get rid of state and federal regulations at the FCC and in state legislatures. (This is on top of the health concerns of putting a microwave antenna, always on, on a lamppost directly outside someone’s bedroom window.)
Nationwide Problem: These are federal rules that have been manipulated by the FCC, either by negligence or design. Thus, all states, not only in the Verizon service area, but in the AT&T and CenturyLink territories, have the same financial issues that need to be fixed immediately. Taking the FCC to court is the first step in this direction.
IRREGULATORS is an independent consortium of retired and semi-retired senior telecom experts, analysts, forensic auditors, and lawyers who are former staffers from the FCC, state advocate and Attorneys General Office, as well as telecom auditors and consultants.
AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter Got $58.8 Billion in Tax Benefits: We Want Lower Rates — Now!
Here is a chart you might want to start screaming about. Prices are no longer just and reasonable. There is no effort being made to lower prices, even though just these four companies, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter (Spectrum) garnered $58.8 billion in tax benefits.
The “2016” and “2017” columns supply the “net income” as of the end of December 2017 and they include the “earnings per share”, “EPS”. The next columns are the increases from 2016 to 2017 and the “tax benefit” column is what the companies are reporting. For example, AT&T’s 4th Quarter result had the net income rise from $2.4 billion to $19 billion, and the total tax benefit was $20 billion while the diluted earnings per share went from $.39 to $3.08, increases of about 690%.
NOTE: We still have to wait for the companies to put out their annual reports as there can be differences. And some companies, like Centurylink, (the incumbent phone company for western states like Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota, still hadn’t posted their 4th quarter results as of this writing.) Also, the earnings per share and other factors will vary based on the number of available stock shares, number of shareholders, etc.)
Historically, when an incumbent telecommunications company had a major financial windfall, the regulators would make sure that prices would be lowered, especially when there is little competition to lower them. In fact, in New York, Verizon was granted major rate increases of basic phone service starting in 2005, in part because the company was reporting major losses.
But there are no plans to ‘lower rates’ here. The FCC, of course, doesn’t care to lower cable TV, broadband, internet, or phone prices on their friends, the phone and cable companies — commonly called “ISPS”.
Yet, based on the companies’ financials, the changes in the tax laws for just these 4 companies helped to deliver a mind-boggling tax benefit of $58.8 billion dollars. Maybe if this new found cash was to be used for something useful, like building out infrastructure or bringing in serious competition to lower prices, then these windfall profits could be justified.
But this is not the case. The money appears to be going mostly to shareholders with massive earnings per share benefits — i.e.; take the money and run. And wouldn’t you know it, those who benefit the most are the largest shareholders — the management of Verizon, AT&T, et al.
AT&T Claims 2017 has been a Remarkable Year because of the “Major Policy Achievements”.
America’s consumers and businesses are under attack, not only from outrageous tax breaks to already rich corporations, commonly known as the so-called ISPs, but they are being doubly assisted by the FCC.
And AT&T et al. are, of course, laughing all the way to the bank due to the current Trump and FCC tax and regulatory policies.
Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s CEO, told investors in the company’s 4th Quarter 2017 earnings presentation — it’s a remarkable year because of the “major policy achievements”.
“I just want to take a moment and reflect on 2017 because by any measure, 2017 was a remarkable year. It’s remarkable for our country, for our industry where we operate, and for AT&T. And it’s been a long time since we’ve seen so many, what I would call, major public policy achievements compressed into a single year like we saw last year. And we’re calling these achievements because the combined impact from these is going to be growth. It’s going to be growth in U. S. investment and jobs and in wages. And all of this began early in 2017, as regulations across all industries were being rationalized.”
“We need a long-term predictability on the rules of the Internet and on customer privacy. So, we’re calling for an Internet Bill of Rights and you can expect us to take a leadership role on this as the discussion progresses.”
As we pointed out, in a single year, the FCC decided to make massive changes, which are part of a wish list created by AT&T.
§ Get rid of Net Neutrality
§ Get rid of basic privacy laws
§ Help to kill off competition
§ Help to close down the existing copper infrastructure, even in areas where there are no substitutes.
§ Force-march customers onto wireless service
§ Privatize publicly funded infrastructure.
We call this litany of regulatory mayhem “The Wheel of Misfortune”. And the idea that AT&T wants an “Internet Bill of Rights” is ludicrous. One has to remember that the FCC named the removal of Net Neutrality the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”.
In fact, Trump has decided to make the FCC a toxic waste dump by having telco and cable company consultants lead the transition team. Trump then appointed former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai to be chairman, and Brendan Carr was made a commissioner; he is a former lawyer at Wiley Rein, who worked for Verizon, AT&T, and the wireless association, CTIA and the phone association, USTA, for years.
Verizon Benefits from All of this are Also Worth Noting.
Talk about financial gifts, Verizon writes that it had a $16.8 billion dollar, one-time earnings increase — and instead of actually building out areas with fiber optics that were neglected, the company has decided to give the money to the shareholders, with an additional $4.10 per share.
“As Verizon noted in an 8-K filing on Jan. 17, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also resulted in a one-time, after-tax increase to earnings provisionally estimated to be approximately $16.8 billion, or $4.10 per share. This is primarily related to the re-measurement of the company’s net deferred tax liabilities at the new corporate income tax rate.
“The cumulative net impact from these items, after tax, was approximately $15.2 billion, or $3.71 per share, in fourth-quarter 2017.
I note that elsewhere, according to Verizon, this increase was $4.56 in earnings per share (EPS), compared with $1.10 in 4Q 2016–315% more.
Verizon is also adding $100 million to the Verizon Foundation, from the current $200 million to $300 million over the next two years — which, as we documented, has been used as a slush fund to give to politicians in their districts for pet projects.
But who is the largest beneficiary of this largesse? Well, Chairman Lowell McAdam who had 1.5 million shares of stock in 2016 (the last published accounting) so this tax benefit per share will make him an additional $6.1 million. Who knows what else is in the convoluted executive pay schemes which will be listed in the Verizon 2017 annual proxy statements.
The Net Neutrality Decision Claims that “Title II Harms Investment”. This Conclusion is Based on Manipulated Data
These year-end financial reports also highlight something else: The FCC has been manipulating the story that Title II harms investment.
This is Comcast’s capital expenditures for 2015–2017.
Our most significant recurring investing activity has been capital expenditures in our Cable Communications segment, and we expect that this will continue in the future. The table below summarizes the capital expenditures we incurred in our Cable Communications segment in 2017, 2016 and 2015.”
This shows that there were only increases in the total from 2015 through 2017, from $7 billion to $7.9 billion. Where’s the ‘impact’ of Title II?
And this is Verizon’s overall capital expenditures. The numbers are going up, not down as well.
These ‘overall’ numbers directly contradict the FCC’s claims. The FCC quotes multiple garbage-pail analyses, such as Hal Singer’s Broadband survey, which takes the entire holding companies’ capital expenditures of Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, then calls all of these “ISP” investments.
“91. Comparisons of ISP investment before and after the Title II Order suggest that reclassification has discouraged investment. Performing such a comparison, economist Hal Singer concluded that ISP investment by major ISPs fell by 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2016.
“Singer attempted to account for a few significant factors unrelated to Title II that might affect investment, by subtracting some investments that are clearly not affected by the regulatory change (such as the accounting treatment of Sprint’s telephone handsets, AT&T’s investments in Mexico, and DirecTV investments following its acquisition by AT&T in the middle of this period).”
And Singer manipulates the details of AT&T’s numbers as well, which gooses the entire calculation to show a larger decline. As we just showed, Comcast had increases every year and Verizon’s overall capx also increased.
But, as we pointed out elsewhere, using the base holding companies’ capx total are useless — and there are better data, which we presented, based on state broadband expenditures that the FCC ignored.
We bring this up because what we have is an out of control FCC that is helping to feed the telco-cable gluttony by manipulating the basic data about construction expenditures to create harmful public policies, like getting rid of Net Neutrality.
Next Step: Lower Prices Immediately.
Then we have Charter, which includes Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable.
Let’s examine why America should be getting rate reductions immediately.
Charter had a $9.3 billion tax benefit gift, and its net income increased 2048% from $454 million to $9.6 billion and the earnings per share went up 2247%.
“A special note regarding phone taxes: Government agencies have found phone bills to be an effective way to assess and collect taxes because most people receive one. Those taxes may subsidize various services at the federal, state and local levels (e.g., emergency services, telecommunications services for schools, libraries, health care facilities, etc.). Charter and other companies offering phone service collect the required taxes as part of the total phone bill and send the appropriate amounts back to the taxing agency.
Unfortunately, most of this is deceptive. The charges below, like the “Broadcast TV Surcharge” or the “Business License Fee” are NOT government agency taxes, but made up fees or are charges on the company that they pass through.
Fees / Surcharges
Broadcast TV Surcharge “Federal law allows local U.S. broadcast television stations (i.e. affiliates of networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc.) to negotiate with cable and satellite providers in order to obtain “consent” to carry their broadcast signals (Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992).
Business License Fee “This is a fee or tax assessed on Charter for doing business in your state or locality”.
And some of these are downright despicable and should be removed immediately, regardless of anything else — Secure Connection Fee? Really?
“Secure Connection Fee
“Charter devotes considerable resources to the development and implementation of measures designed to ensure that the connection between a Spectrum receiver (or any other authorized device) and the Spectrum network is secure and that subscribers receive through the connection all of the services they are lawfully authorized to receive.”
REFUNDS AND LOWER PRICES DEMANDED — $20-$40 PER MONTH.
If Charter got an additional $9.3 billion in tax benefit, how come this nickel, dime and quartering of customers with questionable charges is not on the table to be removed, or have these tax benefits used to lower the overall costs to customers for all services?
Here’s What We Suggest:
Charter had about 25.6 million residential customers who get cable, internet, broadband or voice and some combination.
This comes to $363 dollars extra per customer in this benefit, with caveats.
Why shouldn’t we split the difference and get $181.50 back in lower rates — isn’t that reasonable? With an average of $107.00 per month (as different customers have different services and bundles), then there should be a $15.00 decrease, about 14% across the board.
But these per month revenues does not appear to include all of these extra charges, many bogus, and thus this average quoted in the 4th Quarter 2017 report has little reflection on the total bill.
“Monthly residential revenue per residential customer is calculated as total residential video, Internet and voice annual revenue divided by twelve divided by average residential customer relationships during the respective year.”
NOTE: Thus, there is an additional $10.00-$25.00 a month that may also need to be eliminated. Charter never discloses the total actual average charges on bills that a customer pays per month.
Thus, adding the made up fees and surcharges, of the $117-$132.00 a month, we should have a drop of $25-$40.00 a month — not counting the reduction in actual taxes being applied to all of these costs.
And this is just Charter. Comcast, Verizon and AT&T should also be lowering rates 15%-30% and getting rid of all of these made up fees.
Where’s the FCC’s analysis to lower rates? Where’s the FCC’s discussion of bringing in direct competition to lower rates?
Here’s a list of Charter Fees/Surcharges (if charged) — from their web site.
This proceeding is more accurately named: “Preempting state laws to allow shutting off of copper wire services so that the companies can get rid of any State Telecom Utility obligations, (and the unions) and only provide inferior wireless services (in place of a fiber optic wire to the home)— so Telecom companies can make more money”.
At the same time, the Telecom companies and the FCC will make outrageous claims about the future of “5G”, a wireless service that does not exist today and may never work as advertised. Ironically, “4G+1G HYPE” requires a fiber optic wire every block or two; these fiber optic wires could be extended to every home or business, but the Telecom companies don’t want to do that: they make more money for data-capped, unregulated Wireless services.
Once the FCC gets rid of Net Neutrality and privacy restrictions, the plan is to beef up the ad-tech to track you on all devices and sell the information. Keeping with their ‘say anything’ playbook, by using the magical terms ‘broadband’, ‘Internet’, ‘Digital Divide’, ‘revolution’ and ‘new tech’ as political carrots, the Telecom companies continue to get even more subsidies and help from the government.
This is what the FCC and the Telecom companies have planned. We are advocating for a very different future. We are asking every state, every city and every citizen to demand that the FCC stop the current series of proceedings to ‘shut off the copper’ and preempt state laws and — instead — request that the FCC start audits and investigations into the Agency’s own cost accounting rules and the massive financial cross-subsidies that its own rules have created.
At the same time, we are asking every state, every city and every citizen to request that the State Utility commissions, Attorneys General and Advocate offices start state-based audits and investigations, as has been going on at the NY Public Service Commission (NYPSC), which has been examining Verizon-NY’s quality of service issues and financial cross-subsidies: illegally transferring funds from Verizon-NY (the State Telecommunications Utility) to Verizon Wireless and other unregulated Verizon subsidiaries.
In fact, Verizon has recently started to discuss a settlement, which we will address in an upcoming post. We summarized our analysis in a new report: “Verizon New York 2016 Annual Report: Follow the Money: Financial Analysis and Implications” — which we filed in our comments at the FCC.
History shows that this tired strategy of reducing Telecom regulation has not worked to increase Wireline competition and none of the FCC, the State Utility Commissions, AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink — or their co-opted groups, think tanks and experts — have ever publicly discussed this fact. We placed the entire book “The Book of Broken Promises” into the public record at the FCC to prove that the FCC et al. is clueless or in denial about
the history of Broadband and the Internet
the hundreds of billions of dollars in investment incentives that were given, over and over, to what is now AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink to upgrade the copper wires to fiber optics.
The FCC should be asking:
Why is most of America’s telecommunications infrastructure still based on the aging copper wires and not fiber optic wires?
Where did all the money go?
The IRREGULATORS is convinced that the FCC needs to be taken to court over the decision they will make in this proceeding and we hope that commenters, organizations, cities and state organizations, and citizens will join us.
In fact, based on history, we file this knowing that this FCC will not take any action based on our filings, will ignore basic facts and documentation that refute their plans and has been doing this long before this proceeding. The FCC refuses to take seriously any of the data and facts we’ve presented in our previous filings, including the recent report submitted that used the Verizon New York 2016 Annual Report as the foundation of our analysis.
In short, the FCC has been working for the industry, not the public interest.The FCC’s goal is to remove basic consumer protections, free AT&T, Verizon et al. from any obligations of offering service, and erase the basic cost accounting rules instead of auditing the impacts of their rules.
In his written testimony to Congress, Brendan Carr, who has been nominated to be the third Republican FCC Commissioner, omitted the most important fact: He worked for AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink, as well as the CTIA, the wireless association, and the USTA, the telephone association. Moreover, much of this work has direct ties to his current work with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (a former Verizon attorney). Together they have amassed a string of corporate-monopoly friendly, harmful consumer regulations that have passed or are percolating. In the end, Carr and Pai clearly show that they are still working for the industry, not the public interest.
On top of this, there are even holes in Carr’s work timeline, as told by his own LinkedIn bio. His resume shows he clerked for a judge in the 2008-2009 timeframe, while his bio shows him also working from 2005-2012 for Wiley Rein and the telcos and their associations.
All of this should be a deal breaker. The Senate should not confirm Brendan Carr’s nomination as FCC Commissioner.
So my question is: how were ISP’s able to receive so much money with zero accountability? Did the government really set up a handshake agreement over $200 billion?
Bruce Kushnik’s Response:
Maybe you should go to the source: I’ve written three books about this starting in 1998 — and all of these appear to be related to the same threads — over two decades.
Here’s a free copy of the latest book, “The Book of Broken Promises: $400 Billion Broadband Scandal & Free the Net”, which we put up a few
weeks ago because few, if anyone actually bothered to read how the calculations were done. They were based on the Telecom companies’ annual reports, state filings, etc.– and the data is based on 20 years of documentation.
I’ve been tracking the Telecom deployments of fiber optics since 1991 when they were announced as something called the Information Superhighway. The plan was to have America be the first fiber optic country — and each phone company went to their state commissions and legislatures and got tax breaks and rate increases to fund these ‘Utility network’ upgrades that were supposed to replace the existing copper wires with fiber optics — starting in 1992. It was all a con.
As a former senior telecom analyst (the Telecoms my clients) I realized that they had submitted fraudulent cost models, and fabricated the deployment plans. The first book, 1998, laid out some of the history “The Unauthorized Biography of the Baby Bells” with foreword by Dr. Bob Metcalfe (co-inventor of Ethernet networking). I then released “$200 Billion Broadband Scandal” in 2005, which gave the details as by then more than 1/2 of America should have been completed — but wasn’t. The mergers to make the Telecom companies larger were also supposed to bring broadband– but it didn’t. I updated the book in 2015 “The Book of Broken Promises $400 Billion broadband Scandal and Free the Net”, but realized that there were other scams along side this — like manipulating the accounting.
We paid about 9 times for upgrades to fiber for home or schools and we got nothing to show for it — about $4000-7000 per household (though it varies by state and telco). By 2017 it’s over 1/2 trillion.
Finally, I note. These are not “ISPs”; they are State Telecommunications Utility companies that were able to take over the other businesses (like ISPs) thanks to the FCC under Mike Powell, now the head of the cable association.
They got away with it because they could create a fake history that reporters and politicians kept repeating. No state has ever done a full audit of the monies collected in the name of broadband; no state ever went back and reduced rates or held the companies accountable. And no company ever ‘outed’ the other companies– i.e., Verizon NJ never said that AT&T California didn’t do the upgrades.
That’s because they are all guilty of the same scheme, more or less. I do note that Verizon at least rolled out some fiber. AT&T pulled a bait and switch and deployed U-Verse over the aging copper wires (with a ‘fiber node’ within a mile).
It’s time to take this to court. Period. We should go after the financial manipulations (cross-subsidies) where instead of doing the upgrades to fiber, they took the money and spent it everywhere else, like buying AOL or Time Warner (or overseas investments), etc. We should hold them accountable before this new FCC erases all of the laws and obligations.
The following is an Excerpt from $200 Billion Dollar Broadband Scandal about the failed fiber optic history of California. What is now the post-merger AT&T (formerly Pacific Bell) had promised to deploy a fiber optic network that would reach 5.5 million homes by the year 2000 and spend $16 billion dollars.
“A regulated company will always renege on promises to provide public benefits tomorrow in exchange for regulatory and financial benefits today.”
America’s households and businesses have been overcharged at least nine times for broadband/fiber optic services, including the wiring of schools, libraries, and hospitals— about $4000-$7000 per household, and the total is way over ½ trillion dollars by 2016. You can thank just a few companies: AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink, who control the state-based utilities, along with the cable companies, Comcast and now-Spectrum et al. And this is the low number.
The 3rd book in a trilogy that started in 1998, “The Book of Broken Promises” by Bruce Kushnick, proves that few have a clue about the factual history of broadband, much less fiber optic deployments in America that customers paid for, especially the FCC.
April 2017 was Infrastructure Month at the FCC; shame you weren’t told the truth. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, has been making sure you hear the fake history of broadband and the Internet, which is being used to create exceedingly harmful public policies, and this needs to be stopped, now.
And regardless of what you heard, Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink control the state telecommunications utilities, such as Verizon NY or AT&T-California, a fact that has been erased. And the copper wires, as well as most of the fiber optic wires are part of these state utilities, including those used for FiOS or the wires to the cell sites, or all of the other ‘business data services’ (BDS). And they have been funded mainly by local phone customers—and are classified as something called “Title II”.
(Yes, AT&T and Verizon are also wireless companies, and ISPs, and cable companies, and broadband companies, and more recently ad-tech and entertainment companies. However, almost all of it uses the state utility wires, especially in their own territories.)
Here’s What Actually Happened (For details, download the book.)
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,
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.
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.