Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting For The FCC, FTC To Punish Verizon For Screwing Firefighters

from the nothing-to-see-here dept

We’ve noted how the telecom industry been having great success in the Trump era eliminating FCC, FTC, and state authority over telecom monopolies. The underlying industry justification is that gutting consumer protections will somehow magically improve competition and spur investment by regional telecom monopolies, a decades-old claim that has never been true, and yet somehow never dies. In reality, when you kill regulatory oversight of natural monopolies (without shoring up the underlying competition issues beneath), the problem only tends to get worse. It’s something you probably noticed if you’ve had any interactions with Comcast lately.

Last week the perils in this particular course of action were laid bare when Verizon was busted first throttling and then trying to upsell first responders while they were trying to combat wildfires in California. Gigi Sohn, one of the ex-FCC staffers that helped craft the rules, did a good job pointing out how the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order didn’t just kill net neutrality, it punted the FCC’s ability to hold ISPs like Verizon accountable for issues just like this one:

“…Even assuming that Verizon?s actions were not technically a violation of the 2015 net neutrality rules? express prohibition against throttling internet traffic, the company?s actions may still have violated the 2015 rules.

Those rules permitted complaints to be filed pursuant to what was called the ?general conduct rule,? which prohibited broadband providers from unreasonably interfering or disadvantaging ?end users? ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice.? Certainly, the FPD could have made a persuasive case that Verizon was unreasonably interfering with its ability to use broadband internet access service. But, since the repeal of net neutrality, that avenue was not available.”

Telecom monopolies have claimed that killing the FCC’s oversight authority of ISPs is no big deal because the FTC will quickly rush in and fill the void. But as we’ve noted repeatedly, this argument was not made in good faith; whereas the FCC was perfectly-crafted for telecom oversight, the FTC lacks the authority and bandwidth to police ISPs, meaning most meaningful punishment never happens (check out the FTC’s half-decade long effort to hold AT&T accountable for lying to customers about throttling as just one example, or the total failure to police bogus fees).

In the wake of last week’s scandal, you’ll notice Ajit Pai’s FCC hasn’t so much as issued a peep about Verizon’s face plant. Undaunted, a group of eighteen Senators have fired off a letter to the FTC (pdf) urging it to, you know, maybe investigate Verizon:

“We believe the Federal Communications Commission, as the expert regulatory agency, should be responsible for the oversight of public safety networks and communications networks as a whole. Unfortunately, with its repeal of the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC has abdicated its jurisdiction over broadband communications and walked away from protecting consumers, including public safety agencies. We, therefore, call on the FTC to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive acts or practices stemming from this incident.”

Good luck with that. Companies like Verizon have been spending millions of dollars to erode FCC, FTC, and state authority over ISPs. In Verizon’s preferred regulatory paradigm, both state and federal regulators could be powerless to hold Verizon accountable for wrongdoing, even in screw ups of this magnitude. And if any federal “investigation” happens it will be superficial at best–thanks to a neutered FCC, an over-extended FTC, and states handcuffed by Ajit Pai’s historically-unpopular Restoring Internet Freedom order.

That’s because in the Trump administration (like countless past administrations before it), telecom monopolies like AT&T and Comcast are quite literally directing policy. After all, nobody wants to risk angering deep-pocketed campaign contributors. And these companies’ central, puerile tech policy thesis is that when you let telecom monopolies (with thirty-years of anti-competitive behavior under their belt) run amok without meaningful oversight or competition, miracles happen.

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Companies: verizon

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Comments on “Don't Hold Your Breath Waiting For The FCC, FTC To Punish Verizon For Screwing Firefighters”

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Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Governments are reflections of its people.

I don’t know why this was flagged (unless it was for grammatical reasons). It’s simply a restatement of the well-known adage “every nation gets the government it deserves”.

If you think you don’t deserve the Government you have in the US, why not vote to change it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

This is no event of fortune. This is how things are setup by corporate media: mention something important really quick if it doesn’t fit the agenda (or don’t mention it at all if you can get away with it). Keep pushing bullshit for days and even months, if it fits the agenda.

Gotta Newmania says:

Trying to milk this dead rodent again, eh?

Again: How the HELL was Verizon to know A) account vital to public safety B) not just some grifter trying a scam?

THE ONLY WAY was for Fire Dept to have set all that up BEFORE actual need. Write a letter and make calls that flatter the Customer Service Manager into feeling important.


But fits your anti-Verizon template and you’ve nothing more important. Now you can endlessly blame Ajit Pai and blather about calls for Congress to investigate. So you’re in pig heaven now, aincha boy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trying to milk this dead rodent again, eh?

They did set it up like that.

The Fire Department was set up on a plan without limits, and the plan was changed without notifying the FD.

And this is the third time they’ve run out of bandwidth while fighting a fire had to call to try to get it fixed. "How the Hell was Verizon to know?" They should have PUT A FLAG ON THE ACCOUNT after the first time!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trying to milk this dead rodent again, eh?

you fucking moron, grifter or scamming aside, the fire department would have been the account with increase bandwidth or removed limitations either way so they would have benefited anyways.

And if it turned out to be a scam then it is Verizon’s fault for not catching it and giving the FD “free” internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trying to milk this dead rodent again, eh?

How the HELL was Verizon to know A) account vital to public safety B) not just some grifter trying a scam?

Maybe because the account was set up in the name of a fire department and is likely right there in the name of the account? Gee, there’s a big clue right there.

So basically what you’re saying is Verizon is too stupid to even know whether they’re doing business with a private individual or a public safety organization. Even when it says "fire department" on the account name and this is the THIRD time that they’ve had this problem.

You’re either an idiot or disgustingly dishonest.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Miracle to WHO?

And these companies’ central, puerile tech policy thesis is that when you let telecom monopolies (with thirty-years of anti-competitive behavior under their belt) run amok without meaningful oversight or competition, miracles happen.

Depending on how you define ‘miracles’, they’re not wrong, after all they did manage to force the FD into ‘upgrading’ their plan to a more expensive one in the midst of a fire, and that sort of go-getting salesmanship is sure to get someone a nice bonus.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But but but we put top men in charge of this and this is the robust investment and expansion we were promised!

They have invested heavily into screwing customers & expanding costs & hassle.

I still want someone to explain why the state who has had so many huge disasters like this isn’t hooked up to the nationwide first responder network yet. We were promised this wouldn’t happen when we handed out tons of cash… seems once again the telcos get to take the cash and deliver little if anything while seeking more cash.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

We'll see how silver the lining is...

That the response to these incidents to investigate and correct has been so minimal should bolster the arguments to the courts that the 2015 rules should be reinstated, that Net Neutrality and Title-2 reclassification be restored to telecommunications, maybe extended even to wireless.

The chaos will persist until there’s change.

Richard Bennett (profile) says:

Grasping at straws

This is hilarious. In Bode-speaking, providing customers with the service they’ve purchased from you is “screwing” them. Because companies are supposed to give customers what they want not what they signed up for. Glad we’ve got that settled.

FirstNet. That’s the nationwide mobile network for firefighters and other first responders. Why doesn’t the Santa Clara County fire department use it, haven’t they heard of it?

Good ole Bode, no matter what happens he always knows who’s to blame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Grasping at straws

providing customers with the service they’ve purchased from you is "screwing" them.

Except they didn’t provide the service they purchased from them now was it? Or did you miss the fact that this is no less than the third time this has happened and the fire department worked out an agreement with Verizon for special service so this wouldn’t happen again? Hell, Verizon even admitted, publicly, that they failed to provide the service they promised.

Good ole Richard, no matter how blatant the truth is, he sticks to his lies like a tick on a dog.

Try again Richard.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

You prove my point beautifully.
Linking an opinion piece written by the president of a corporate astroturfing firm, that in its second paragraph blatantly mischaracterizes the base situation as “The FD cheaped out and bought the wrong plan” when the truth was Verizon serially miarepresented the plan it sold the FD as throttle-free on at least two separate occasions, and then moves on to innuendo, Verizon apologism, and creative interpretations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

Every teenager in America knows that consumer-grade mobile data plans get throttled at a certain threshold. SCC had the option of purchasing the 300 GB of data it needed each month and chose not to. Three times.

Their complaint is they didn’t get a permanent upgrade for free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

Their complaint is they didn’t get a permanent upgrade for free.

Oh you mean the contractual agreement they worked out with Verizon that said in times of emergency they could just call and get the throttling lifted at no charge, the same agreement that Verizon publicly admitted to failing to uphold. That complaint?

Try again Richard.

(Also, I thought you didn’t comment anonymously. You coward you.)

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 "Every teenager in America"

That’s presumptive. If enough people knew unlimited plans were not really unlimited, they wouldn’t call them that. Rather our fire service got a truly unlimited plan (Verizon’s words!) How truly unlimited must an unlimited plan be before it’s actually unlimited?

This should serve as an example that Verizon doesn’t engage in good-faith business. It sells false products with an intent to obfuscate and deceive.

You are right that so much of our nation runs on denying information and exploiting those who are not fully informed, that our teenagers likely know that their phone plan service terms are probably as false as the history they learn in school. But then they (like I) get called paranoid when they’re skeptical of good faith.

That deception in advertising is the status quo is not an indicator that it is acceptable or customary. Rather, it is an indictment of the telecommunications oligopoly, and its bad faith under insufficient regulation. Blaming the end-users, in this case a state agency fighting wildfire, is victim blaming.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 "Every teenager in America"

If you want to see a disgusting example of false advertising, you need go no further than the headline of this story.

I’m sorry, what was false and what is being advertised again? Oh right, that was just you.

Telecoms don’t have a monopoly on misleading and deceptive marketing.

No, but they do have a monopoly internet access.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

It’s a Google/Facebook suckup, like everything he writes.

This is blatantly not true and easily disproven by a five second search, but you already know that, don’t you?

The errors of fact and significant omissions are legion.

Such as?

Read the story I mentioned to see a coherent and factual account.

See Verizon’s public admission that they screwed up for an ironclad rebuttal of that article.

Try again Richard.

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