Pai’s FCC continues slashing consumer protections in tech transition proceeding

The FCC adopted an order in a proceeding intended to accelerate wireline broadband deployment. Unfortunately, Pai’s FCC has consistently used this proceeding to undercut consumer protections put in place under the previous administration – and this order is no different.

In its most recent order draft, the Commission claims that education and outreach requirements to ease the tech transition from copper to fiber networks are not necessary because there’s a marketplace incentive to communicate with consumers about replacement services. However, to support this claim, the Commission references an AT&T transition trial that included comprehensive and multi-faceted customer outreach – as mandated by the FCC. In other words, as proof that outreach requirements are unnecessary, the Commission  pointed to a successful trial that included robust outreach requirements.

“We can only advance our goal of advancing technology transitions if customers are full educated and informed,” AT&T wrote of their trial and outreach.

There is broad opposition to the FCC’s second draft from labor, civil rights, and public interest groups.

“With the Commission’s recent elimination of advance notice requirements of copper retirements, the education and outreach rules have become even more critical,” Debbie Goldman, CWA’s Telecommunications Policy Director wrote. “CWA strongly urges the Commission to retain the consumer education and outreach requirements to protect consumers, particularly those who are elderly, low-income, and live in rural areas."

“We strongly object to the elimination of any consumer education outreach after the inexcusable failure to implement that outreach in the first place, “ wrote Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference  on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the US. “This proposal both fails to protect the constituencies The Leadership Conference represents and is inconsistent with the Commission’s previous commitments to close the digital divide and rely on data and cost-benefit analysis to make decisions. We urge the Commission to set this proposal aside.”

“The Commission, in its purest purpose, has been charged by Congress to protect consumers and to promote access to affordable, reliable, and adequate communications services,” said comments from public interest groups Common Cause and Public Knowledge. “Eliminating the educational and outreach requirements before they are able to take effect certainly is not guided by those principles and certainly does not protect consumers.”

 

Links:

CWA Comments on Draft Second Report and Order (CWA, May 31, 2018)

The Leadership Conference Comments on Draft Second Report and Order (LCCHR, May 31, 2018)

Common Cause, Public Knowledge Comments on Draft Second Report and Order (CC, PK, May 31, 2018)