Federal Communications Commission

The Future of Local Internet Choice

I am honored to receive the National Champion for Local Internet Choice Award. And I am humbled to be recognized alongside the other award winners, each of whom have been remarkable leaders in the nationwide effort to give communities the power to decide their broadband futures. In the last three years, enormous progress has been made for local Internet choice.

But the battlefield is no longer the Federal Communications Commission and the courts, but state legislatures. The battle plan is for advocates for local Internet choice to bring every local mayor, city council, business, school, college, library, chamber of commerce and citizen together to convince state officials that for the future of those cities and towns and by extension, the state itself, localities must have the ability to determine their own broadband futures. Unless cities and towns can get predictable and affordable access to old-fashioned utility poles, building gigabit networks will be difficult and costly. A growing number of cities have built or are interested in building dark fiber networks and then leasing capacity on those networks to retail Internet service providers.

In closing, I’ll paraphrase just about every State of the Union address – “the state of local Internet choice is strong.” This is true despite the setback dealt by the 6th Circuit. Many challenges lay ahead, but so do many opportunities. If the past three years serve as precedent, I know that the passionate, knowledgeable and resilient advocates of this movement will overcome the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. Let’s keep working together until every community can determine its own broadband needs without barriers. Thanks again for this wonderful honor and for all the support you have given Chairman Wheeler, the FCC and me for the past three years.

[Gigi Sohn is Counselor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission]

Remarks of Commissioner Clyburn at Consumer Advisory Committee

In July, Rep Mike Doyle (D-PA) and I penned an Op-Ed which articulated a simple principle: consumers should know exactly what they will pay before they get their first month’s bill – and, in fact, this should be known and clear before being asked to provide sensitive personal information. We called on the nation’s communications providers to lead the way by voluntarily improving transparency and disclosure of these “below the line” fees so that when consumers sign up for service, either online or in-store, they will not have to wait for their first bill to learn what their service truly costs. So I am extremely pleased that three months later, the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee “No Surprises Task Force” has come up with a series of recommendations that address these very concerns.

Implementing these recommendations would be a huge win for consumers and an opportunity for providers to show how committed they are to putting customers first. So once again, to the Task Force, the Consumer Advisory Committee and the staff of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, thank you for your tireless efforts on such an important consumer issue and as always, thank you for being a voice for those too seldom heard.

Remarks of FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly Before the Hudson Institute

Given the prominence of this venue and Hudson Institute’s legacy of addressing more substantive issues, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss a topic often not addressed by FCC Commissioners: certain tenets of judicial review of FCC items.

Traditionally, many within the legislative and administrative branches of government tend to shy away from discussing particular outcomes of court cases or the collective approach of judicial review. Perhaps hoping that the lack of criticism or comments will prevent a bad outcome in the next case, they avoid discussing altogether or temper their review of instances where the courts have misapplied the law or pursued a line of reasoning devoid of logic or common sense. Having witnessed a number of bad decisions recently, however, I have less compulsion to keep mum about the judicial branch, although I hope the following does so in a relatively respectful way. Additionally, I would argue that the lack of review or analysis of decisions generally deemed out of the mainstream, even by those supportive of a particular outcome, does a disservice to the American people and the court system as a whole. To do this, I will use court review of the Commission’s Net Neutrality rules as a basis for examination. I suggest that the court review of the Commission’s “work” both lacked appropriate rigor necessary for the conclusion reached and established a host of dreadful precedents that will haunt communications policy and administrative law for years to come.

Chairman Wheeler's Response to Rep. Chabot Velazquez Regarding Privacy of Broadband Customers' Personal Information

On August 25, 2016, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to express concern that the FCC's privacy proposals will result in rules that have a negative economic impact on small Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS) providers.

On Oct 4, Chairman Wheeler responded by saying, "The Commission continues to engage in a regulatory flexibility analysis for this ongoing proceeding. When final rules are adopted, the Commission's decision will incorporate consideration of the impacts of the rules on small BIAS providers and will include a Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis (FRFA) that fulfills the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The comments submitted by the US Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy will be addressed in the FRFA."

Remarks of Commissioner Pai on Need for a Digital Empowerment Agenda

High-speed Internet access, or broadband, has enabled the democratization of entrepreneurship. Way back when, if you had a good idea, the odds were against you reaching success at scale unless you worked in a large organization, had personal connections, or otherwise hit the lottery. But today, with a powerful plan and a digital connection, you can raise capital, start a business, immediately reach a worldwide customer base, and disrupt an entire industry. Never before has there been such opportunity for entrepreneurs with drive and determination to transcend their individual circumstances and transform our country.

I want to think big about how to bring broadband to every part of the country. I want to discuss how government at all levels can help spur more entrepreneurship and innovation. In short, I want to share my vision of a Digital Empowerment Agenda that will allow all Americans—no matter what their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, no matter where they live, no matter what their personal background—to make their lives better.

Comcast To Pay $2.3 Million After Subscribers Complain Of Billing For Services & Equipment They Never Ordered

The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau announced that Comcast Corporation will pay a $2.3 million fine to resolve an investigation into whether the company wrongfully charged cable TV customers for services and equipment that those customers never authorized. The Communications Act and the FCC’s rules prohibit a cable provider from charging its subscribers for services or equipment they did not affirmatively request, a practice known as “negative option billing.” Negative option billing burdens customers with the responsibility of contacting a cable company to dispute the charges and obtain refunds. The Communications Act and the FCC’s rules prohibit a similar practice by telecommunications carriers when unauthorized charges are placed on customers’ phone bills, an abuse known as “cramming.”

The Commission received numerous complaints from consumers alleging that Comcast added charges to their bills for unordered services or products, such as premium channels, set-top boxes, or digital video recorders (DVRs). In some complaints, subscribers claimed that they were billed despite specifically declining service or equipment upgrades offered by Comcast. In others, customers claimed that they had no knowledge of the unauthorized charges until they received unordered equipment in the mail, obtained notifications of unrequested account changes by email, or conducted a review of their monthly bills. Consumers described expending significant time and energy to attempt to remove the unauthorized charges from their bills and obtain refunds. In response to these complaints, the FCC undertook an investigation of the company. Under the terms of the settlement, Comcast will pay the largest civil penalty assessed from a cable operator by the FCC and implement a five-year compliance plan.

FCC Commissioner Tells Kansas Association of Broadcasters that Retaining Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership rule is a ‘Profound Mistake’

Speaking to the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai said, “I can’t help but mention the FCC’s decision this year to retain the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule. Put simply, it makes no sense for the federal government to discourage investment in the newspaper industry. But that’s precisely what the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule does. It’s particularly unfortunate because broadcasters are well-situated to partner with newspapers. The reason is simple. Investments in newsgathering are more likely to be profitable when a company can distribute information over multiple platforms. This is not just a theory. Because the FCC grandfathered newspaper-broadcast combinations that predated the 1975 adoption of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule, we have evidence from across the United States. There are at least 15 studies demonstrating that newspaper-television cross-ownership increases the quantity and/or quality of news broadcast by cross-owned television stations.”

FCC’s Biennial Report to Congress as Required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission prepared this Biennial Report for submission to the House and Senate Commerce Committees in accordance with the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).

This Report presents information and assessments related to the accessibility of telecommunications services and equipment, advanced communications services (ACS) and equipment used for ACS, and Internet browsers built into mobile phones, along with a summary of actions taken by the Commission related to the CVAA. Specifically, this Report presents information and assessments related to the accessibility of telecommunications services and equipment as required by section 255,14 ACS and equipment used for ACS as required by section 716,15 and Internet browsers built into mobile phones as required by section 718,16 since the submission of the 2014 CVAA Biennial Report. In addition, this Report provides information about complaints alleging violations of sections 255, 716, and 718 for the period of January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2015.

FCC Chairman Wheeler's Proposal To Promote Fairness, Competition, And Investment In The Business Data Services Market

To promote fairness, competition, and investment in this $45 billion marketplace, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated to his fellow Commissioners proposed rules to take necessary and overdue steps to reform a long-broken regulatory regime.

The Order provides a new framework for the Business Data Services (BDS or “special access”) market that strikes a balance between targeted regulation for legacy TDM (DS1 and DS3) services, where evidence of market power is strongest, and lighter-touch regulation of packet-based services, where there has been new entry and competition may be emerging. The Order also reaffirms that TDM and Ethernet BDS are both subject to the Commission’s Title II oversight. This framework supports the rapid deployment of innovative 5G mobile service by ensuring that wireless providers have fair access to BDS, including packet-based BDS, at just and reasonable rates, terms, and conditions. These requirements are enforced by strengthening our complaint process to expedite resolution of problems if they arise.

The Chairman is also proposing a Further Notice on packet-based BDS, which will provide the Commission with a vehicle to take further action on Ethernet pricing if that proves necessary. A Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would seek comment on how best to collect accurate data on market developments and what administrable means can be developed, if necessary, to deal with any concerns that may emerge with respect to pricing for packet-based BDS.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda For October 2016 Open Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the following items are tentatively on the agenda for the October Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, October 27, 2016:

  1. Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and other Telecommunications Services: The Commission will consider a Report and Order that applies the privacy requirements of the Communications Act to broadband Internet access service providers and other telecommunications services to provide broadband customers with the tools they need to make informed decisions about the use and sharing of their information by their broadband providers. (WC Docket No.16-106)
  2. Deceptive Marketing: The Commission will separately consider four Memorandum Opinions and Orders that dismiss and deny Petitions for Reconsideration of four Forfeiture Orders issued by the Commission for the deceptive marketing of prepaid calling cards.

Separately, the FCC announced it has lifted the sunshine restrictions applicable to Expanding Consumers’ Video Navigation Choices (MB Docket No. 16-42); Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices (CS Docket No. 97-80) – an item that was deleted from the Commission’s Sept meeting agenda. So, talk amongst yourselves.