from the utterly-Comcastic dept
It shouldn't be all that surprising then that leaked details on the incoming FCC's transition plan confirms that gutting of the FCC as consumer watchdog is precisely what Trump's team has in mind. Of his advisory team can't just call this spade a spade, given consumers would realize an unchecked Comcast, AT&T, Charter and Verizon spells significant trouble for their wallets... and peace of mind. As such, Trump's advisors intend to dress up what they have planned as an act of ultra-efficiency and reform:
"That 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.It's worth noting that it's not "some" people that are saying the goal is to neuter the FCC -- that's what Trump's own advisors and most of the GOP are saying. And sure, the FCC will be more "efficient" in the way that a car stripped and sold off for parts needs less maintenance and fewer oil changes, but the pretense that this has anything to do with helping consumers should be utterly transparent to anybody familiar with America's pay-to-play legislature and the kind of "dollar per hollar" industry-tied think tankers that currently have Trump's ear.
While some have described the plan as one to eliminate the FCC, and certainly many if not most of its functions could be reapportioned, landing team members Jeff Eisenach and Rosyln Layton have argued that what remains would be "a more coherent and streamlined" agency that "would more effectively serve the goals of consumers, competitors, and Congress."
In telecom you'll very often see ISP lobbyists and executives urging that the FCC's consumer protection duties be offloaded entirely to the FTC. That's because they know full well the FTC is already under-staffed, under-funded, and ill-equipped to pick up this additional workload, and most consumer issues would be guaranteed to fall through the cracks. The goal isn't more efficient regulation and better, more streamlined regulators: the goal is no oversight whatsoever of some of the least competitive companies in America and one of the most loathed industries in America. All else is pretense.
Of course we could just ask real consumer advocates like Public Knowledge lawyer Harold Feld. Feld has spent the lion's share of his life defending consumers from companies like Comcast, and tells Ars Technica that Trump's plan is effectively an all out war on telecom consumer protections:
"Harold Feld, senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, called this plan "a declaration of war on the most basic principles of universal service, consumer protection, competition, and public safety that have been the bipartisan core of the Communications Act for the last 80+ years." Feld argued that this proposal would "poison the well for any serious effort to update the Communications Act." Feld also worries about the impact on rural areas, which are given special protections in the Communications Act, he told Ars today.But Congressional legislation is just what the GOP is planning. The GOP has made it repeatedly clear they intend to table a Communications Act rewrite this year that further erodes regulatory authority over the nation's largest cable TV and broadband providers. It's very likely this new bill will not only severely curtail the FCC, but will roll back the agency's Title II reclassification of ISPs -- as well as net neutrality and new broadband privacy rules. All under the pretense of jobs, broadband expansion, and protecting net neutrality.
Feld said that the FCC itself has "considerable latitude" to limit its own enforcement actions "and to use rulemakings and forbearances to strip itself of authority," but it still has to meet the requirements of the federal Administrative Procedures Act. Moreover, the proposal to shift FCC competition and consumer protection authority to agencies such as the FTC would require the writing of extremely complicated legislation in Congress, he said."
Of course the way things are going, dismantling the only government agency that has dared stand up to Comcast is going to be portrayed as some kind of "populist" reform, resulting in countless millions cheering against their own best interests as their rights burn down around them. But as consumer TV and broadband bills skyrocket, net neutrality is gutted, consumer privacy concerns get thrown in the toilet, and unchecked industry duopolists truly begin to run amok -- misdirection and bullshit will only go so far in preventing consumers from realizing precisely who'll be to blame.