This Post is a companion piece to the podcast below.
There is a plot brewing that will kill cord-cutting and leave your cable TV and internet provider with even more power over the Internet we all find essential. Whether you supported Trump or Clinton in this recent election should not matter. Having purchase options when it comes to Internet access should be an issue we all can come together on.
I’ve warned in the past to be wary of the incoming administration’s FCC transition team. It is filled with Telecom lobbyists and coin operated intellectuals like Jeffery Eisenach. Back in November, I cautioned that Eisenach will likely push to move FCC consumer protection to the FTC.
News recently broke indicating that this is exactly what they are going to do. This week Multichannel News reported that the Trump FCC transition team were embracing an “FCC Remake.” John Eggerton of Multichannel reported:
“[the] approach would be to restructure FCC bureaus to better reflect the convergence of the digital age as a first step, and, eventually, move functions deemed “duplicative,” like, say, competition and consumer protection, to other agencies, particularly the Federal Trade Commission”
While this may seem logical to some, it is really a clever trick that leaves people little consumer protection against ISPs. If you think companies like Comcast and AT&T have you trapped now, this move will give them infinitely more power.
The problem with the plan is due to the policy governing the FTC. The FTC has no consumer protection authority over companies that deliver a service with a “Title II” designation (essentially, a public utility).
Furthermore, a federal circuit court recently ruled that the FTC has no jurisdiction over the non-Tittle II services of a company that delivers any service with a Title II designation. Update: This case is being reheard by the 9th Circuit Court.
In other words, the Trump Transition team is creating a situation where there is no oversight over what an internet service provider can do in relation to consumer protection. The FCC would be stripped of its power, completely nullifying recent pro-consumer Net Neutrality rules. Furthermore, the courts have left the FTC unable to aid consumers against the likes of Comcast, Charter, and others.
Even if adjustments are made to fix the regulatory gap of the FTC; the Telecom lobbyists developing this plan will make the adjustments. You can be certain the new regulatory powers will be tilted heavily in favor of the companies currently overcharging you for TV, internet, and telephone services.
If the transition team has its way, you can expect even less competition, forcing prices for these services even higher. Higher priced internet will make it cost prohibitive to not purchase a bundle from your local provider. People have been cutting the cord in massive numbers, this plan will bring that all to a screeching halt.
Furthermore, with so few companies having so much control over internet access, it will be very easy to silence our voices in the future. This should matter to you whether you supported Trump, Clinton, or any candidate regardless of party. It’s an issue we can all get behind and possibly start to heal some of the partisan divide in this country.
How Do We Stop This
Today, I am sounding the alarm and asking everyone to pitch in and stop this from happening. This isn’t just for cord cutters. Anyone that thinks the price they pay for TV or Internet is ridiculous should be concerned. This move will leave consumers will little protection against these service providers.
We have one recourse. Any changes Eisenach and company make will require congressional approval. Now, I know there is a lot of money lobbying Congress, but getting re-elected is their number 1 priority. If their offices are flooded with calls expressing constituent disagreement with this plan, this Machiavellian plan will fail.
The likely place to target to shut this thing down before it starts is the Communications and Technology Subcommittee in the House of Representatives. Any changes to FCC consumer protection powers should start there.
Since lobbyists are in the pocket of everyone having anything to do with Telecom, we need to make sure we target both Republicans and Democrats on the subcommittee. If there is a representative in your district on the subcommittee, call them. Everyone should call the Chairman and Vice Chairman on the Republican side (Walden and Latta.) Also, call the Ranking member on the Democratic side (Eshoo).
All the contact information I could find for all representatives on the committee are below. Check and see if your representative is on the committee. However, be sure to contact the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Ranking Member.
When you call, you will likely get a staff member. Be kind and respectful while expressing your views on the FCC transition plan. Kindly ask them to fight this plan when it is brought up in the Communications and Technology Subcommittee. Be sure to call both the District and D.C. office. If enough people call, it will spook congress and make them think twice on gutting the only institution standing between mega-corporations and people like you and me.
Some readers have asked for a script to use when they call. I’ve put some language to use below. However, if you are comfortable I recommend using your own words. Conversations, tend to hold a bit more weight with staffers.
I’m calling today to express my support for the Open Internet Rules currently in place at the FCC. The internet itself and the services that run on them are vastly different in nature and require different regulatory expertise.
The Internet is a communications infrastructure that behaves as a utility. Therefore, internet service provider like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon currently are and should continue to be regulated by the FCC. Products like Netflix, FaceBook, and other applications are services delivered over the internet, therefore they currently are and should continue to be regulated by the FTC.
It has been reported that the Trump Administration is working on a plan to move consumer protection power over internet service providers from the FCC to the FTC. This is a bad plan, and recent court rulings would leave the FTC unable to act on Internet Service Provider consumer violations. The current separation of duties between the FCC and FTC must be maintained to guarantee a free and open internet.
Please share this article with as many people as you can. We need everyone working together to make our representatives work for us