Public interest, consumer groups challenge FCC copper retirement rules in court

Consumer and public interest groups challenged the FCC in court over its elimination of rules that protect consumers when telco companies shut down their copper plant. The FCC gutted these safeguards in a 2017 order that eliminated protections requiring proper maintenance of copper infrastructure and advance notice requirements.

The Communications Workers of America opposed the FCC’s 2017 copper retirement order, calling it a “giant step backward.” “We’ve already seen the dangers that can happen when carriers don’t consider how change in service impacts a community – just ask residents of Fire Island, NY,” CWA said in a press release following the FCC vote in November. “That's where Verizon replaced damaged landlines with wireless service that didn’t work with health monitors, alarms, fax machines, and equipment for the hearing impaired. The FCC’s radical plan puts millions of Americans, particularly in rural areas, at risk for the same disruption of critical communications services.”

The Greenlining Institute, Public Knowledge, The Utility Reform Network, and the National Association of the State Utility Consumer Advocates filed the brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The Commission failed to explain why it reversed its longstanding determination that Congress intended to prioritize protecting consumers from loss of vital services rather than prioritize broadband deployment at all costs,” the brief said. “Congress clearly intended to empower the [FCC] to protect consumers from disruption or loss of service, meaning that a functional definition of ‘service’ is the only permissible interpretation.” The brief asks the court to restore rules to protect customers who rely on the copper landline network.



Group Petitioners Brief on FCC’s 2017 Technology Transitions Order (Public Knowledge, Sept. 26, 2018)

Public interest, consumer advocates appeal FCC’s copper retirement order (Speed Matters, Dec. 13, 2017)
CWA: FCC takes three giant steps backward (Speed Matters, Nov. 17, 2017)