FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel
The FCC got it wrong when it repealed net neutrality. The decision put the agency on the wrong side of history, the American public, and the law. And the courts agreed. That’s why they sent back to this agency key pieces regarding how the rollback of net neutrality protections impacted public safety, low income Americans, and broadband infrastructure. Today, the FCC is seeking comment on how best to move forward. My advice? The American public should raise their voices and let Washington know how important an open internet is for every piece of our civic and commercial lives.
While the spirit of this effort is right on—we have a broadband problem—the way we go about addressing it is not right. It will leave so many people, so many communities, and so many places behind. Let me explain why.
For more than a year, the [Federal Communications Commission] was silent after news reports alerted us that for just a few hundred dollars, shady middlemen could sell your location within a few hundred meters based on your wireless phone data. It’s chilling to consider what a black market could do with this data. It puts the safety and privacy of every American with a wireless phone at risk. Today this agency finally announced that this was a violation of the law. Millions and millions of Americans use a wireless device every day and didn’t sign up for or consent to this surveillance.
While the spirit of this effort is right on—we have a broadband problem—the way we go about addressing it is not right.
I want to propose that we use this opportunity to reaffirm what is fundamental: our commitment to a global and open internet for all. In the age of the always-on internet, the idea of suddenly flicking connectivity off like a switch sounds dystopian. But for so many people in so many places this is becoming a reality. 21 countries shut down the internet 122 times in 2019 alone. That means there were more internet shutdowns in 2019 than ever before. These shutdowns are not just the instruments of authoritarian regimes, they have been used by democracies trying to tackle problems, too.
For anyone who is pregnant, having a hospital delivery room nearby means knowing that when the baby arrives medical assistance will be close at hand. But for too many of those in rural America, this comfort is often no longer available—and it is putting both women and babies at risk. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized nation with an increasing rate of maternal mortality and this problem hits women of color especially hard. The Federal Communications Commission has a long history of working to promote access to telehealth in rural communities.
On Nov 22 the Federal Communications Commission will vote to adopt a rule ensuring that our universal service funds—which provide billions annually to support broadband deployment in rural communities—are not used to purchase insecure network equipment. We also will kick off a rulemaking to identify where this equipment is in networks today and how to help carriers serving rural America replace it. I think with a few changes we can better protect the integrity of our networks and offer more certainty and predictability for carriers.
The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will end a golden age in wireless that helped bring to market lower prices and more innovative services. It will mean an end to the competitive rivalry that reduced prices by 28% during the last decade. Similarly, the pressure to support unlimited data plans and free international roaming will fade. Offers to pay early termination fees to help families switch to plans that fit their lives will fall by the wayside.
I’m going to say a word or concept—something about wireless—and I’m going to ask you to raise your hands—is it overrated or underrated? And in return, I’ll share my two cents about it, too.
5G -- underrated Mid-band spectrum -- underrated World Radiocommunication Conference -- overrated Network Virtualization -- Very underrated Unlicensed Spectrum -- underrated
We’ve all seen what happens when markets become more concentrated after a merger like this one. In the airline industry, it brought us baggage fees and smaller seats. In the pharmaceutical industry, it led to a handful of drug companies raising the prices of lifesaving medications. There’s no reason to think this time will be different. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that the T-Mobile-Sprint merger will reduce competition, raise prices, lower quality, and slow innovation.