Yesterday, Public Knowledge and Center for Rural Strategies filed comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s recent Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on dismantling the agency’s consumer protections established in the 2015 and 2016 Technology Transitions Orders. The FCC voted to roll back a multitude of these consumer protections last fall.
The Commission now proposes to further cut back or completely eliminate rules intended to educate and protect consumers from adverse impacts that may occur when incumbent phone providers discontinue their copper networks. The agency’s new proposals include eliminating its oversight when carriers transition from copper to next-generation networks. The Commission also proposes to eliminate rules that require carriers to engage in outreach and consumer education efforts to inform their customers of what to expect when their copper network is discontinued.
Public Knowledge and Center for Rural Strategies find that this Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking marks the next step in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to downgrade rural America in order to benefit broadband providers.
The following can be attributed to Yosef Getachew, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“One of the oldest and most crucial responsibilities of the FCC is to ensure consumers have access to consistent, reliable communications services. The FCC has a Congressional mandate under Section 214 of the Communications Act to oversee the upgrade from legacy services to next-generation networks and ensure that it is in the public interest. We’ve already seen the dangers that can happen when carriers are allowed to replace their networks without any oversight from the FCC. Following Superstorm Sandy, Verizon replaced its damaged copper network on Fire Island, NY with wireless services that didn’t work with a range of third-party services and couldn’t guarantee connection to 9-1-1.
“Without clear rules from the FCC that protect the public interest when carriers discontinue their copper networks, there is no way to ensure next-generation networks are a true upgrade forward for everyone. Unfortunately, the Commission continues its march towards dismantling the existing framework, which will result in a downgrade of service for rural Americans and our nation’s most vulnerable communities.”
You can read and download our comments here.