Trump's Plan Is To Gut All FCC Consumer Protection Powers

from the utterly-Comcastic dept

Trump's telecom advisors have made it abundantly clear the incoming administration intends to gut net neutrality, roll back most consumer broadband protections, and defund and defang the FCC as a broadband consumer watchdog. While deregulation works in some sectors, history makes it abundantly clear that blindly deregulating the broken telecom market only makes the problem worse. Just ask Michael Powell, the former deregulatory-focused FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist, whose blanket deregulatory tenure at the agency helped forge the "Comcast experience" most modern consumers enjoy today.

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.

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."
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.

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.

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."
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.

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.

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  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:04pm

    T Minus 2 Days ...

    ... and counting ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:55pm

      Re: T Minus 2 Days ...

      In case you haven't heard, after the coronation, everything is going to be magical rainbows and unicorns! America will be great again. Whatever that means.

      Everyone will be happy and healthy. ACA will be repealed, but replaced with some magical thing that will make everyone insured with similar benefits as the ACA but without whatever evil substance makes the ACA so bad.

      America will be able to insult its way to success. And intimidate other countries into building factories in America and send us all their jobs -- as long as the workers have the necessary prescribed skin color.

      Hillary will be in jail which will somehow magically improve everyone's life!

      As for economic opportunities, just watch to see how well the president's businesses do after using the powers of office to negotiate favorable deals with other nations, even at the expense of the American people.

      Life will be beautiful!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        JP (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re: T Minus 2 Days ...

        No No NO. Why is everyone getting this wrong? ACA is not being repealed. That disaster called Obamacare is! Totally different!

        /s (shouldn't need it but after watching Kimmel...)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 2:02pm

          Re: Re: Re: T Minus 2 Days ...

          ha ha ha...

          nothing is being repealed...

          The Deal is just being altered....
          Pray it is not altered any further!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 4:49pm

        Re: Re: T Minus 2 Days ...

        Day one .... Donny takes a vacation. lol, poor boy,

        I do not think he understands the Presidency is not a 9 to 5, five days a week kind of job, it is 24-7

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:25pm

    "Trump's Plan Is To Gut All FCC Consumer Protection Powers"

    Libertarians rejoice! You now get to play more for the same service. Pay thousands more in bogus fees. ISPs will be able to legally spy on you and sell that information to any 3rd party. You'll be charged twice for the same service thanks to bandwidth caps and "reprioritization" of services like Netflix. Telecoms and their ilk will return to using underhanded tactics to push people off POTS and onto less regulated services that are proven unreliable in emergencies.

    Yes, I say rejoice ye libertarians! For you're getting exactly what you asked for! OH... wait... you forgot that these companies had sweetheart deals with local and state governments that essentially makes them local monopolies and the FCC was the only thing keeping them from being total ass hats? I'm sorry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:46pm

      Re:

      Using their language:

      They are empowering captive markets by removing a bandaid meant to stopgap the bleeding from captive markets robbing consumers. This bandaid isn't being accompanied with setting the broken bone of crony capitalist state laws that effectively bar competition to telecoms.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      Libertarians rejoice! You now get to play more for the same service.

      The same service, you are an optimist. Welcome to the Internet being converted cable V3.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      darren, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:36pm

      Trump's Plan too timid

      [|

      ...libertarians want the FCC totally abolished (!!) -- not merely restricted a little bit in Broadband regulation.

      You leftist-socialists have no clue about libertarian views.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:01am

        Re: Trump's Plan too timid

        I don't think you people know what libertarian, leftist and socialist mean.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:12am

          Re: Re: Trump's Plan too timid

          Clearly they are just labels to be tossed around mindlessly.

          When called out simply claim it is the other guys fault for not using the same dictionary, clearly my definition is the correct one and you are mistaken.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:21am

          Re: Re: Trump's Plan too timid

          To your voluntaryist/anarchist, anyone who disagrees with them is a leftist socialist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:46pm

    Be careful what you wish for

    Dear Telecom industry,

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Maybe you will get everything you dream of after the coronation in a few days.

    Like all abusive monopolies, you will soon overreach. To the point that some future administration will do something tantamount to the AT&T breakup.

    Choose wisely just how much you want to screw consumers.

    Here's an idea! How about unbundling all content from connectivity. Make your connectivity be the biggest, fastest, bestest dumb pipes there ever was. Make America's internet service great again. At least get it up into the top 20 of the world. Set your prices to cover the cost of building out and maintaining your network and your profit. Be competitive. Just sell great service at great prices. No need for disgusting back room deals with content providers to favor certain content as "zero-rated".

    As for content, make great content. Make that content available to everyone on all networks without discrimination.

    As for building a wall, how about let's not build a wall. Walled gardens are really just prison camps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:54pm

    Man bites dog

    "...as a first step, and, eventually, move functions deemed "duplicative," like, say, competition and consumer protection, to other agencies, particularly the Federal Trade Commission. "

    Wouldn't it be an interesting turn of events if the FTC actually did their job and went after the telecom industry for the lack of competition and their egregious manipulation to prevent competition? Not that I think it will happen, but it would be interesting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:57pm

      Re: Man bites dog

      Good grief man!!!

      I am way up here at the top of this tree!!! if the FTC does something right I will fall off, out of pure shock!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:55pm

    kinda funny...

    "While deregulation works in some sectors, history makes it abundantly clear that blindly deregulating the broken telecom market only makes the problem worse."

    Seems to work BOTH ways! The only regulation I have noticed happening has always been the blind version! Your weapons have now been turned against you! How does it feel?

    Enjoy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    slowgreenturtle (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 12:59pm

    Monopoly

    Does this mean the politicians will be removing their own ability to make "exclusive" deals with Internet providers which restrict competition? I'm all for gutting the FCC, but if their "help" consists of continuing to prevent competition in the form of municipal monopolies, what is the point? I would like a free market, but free market means the politicians stay out of both ends of the market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:28pm

      Re: Monopoly

      That would just be too awesome...

      So therefore there is not a snowballs chance in hell it will happen. Here is the definition of the Terms "Regulation" and "De-Regulation" when you see them being used in the politosphere.

      "Regulation" - The process by where Government and Business collude to extort citizens, but writing the regulations in such a way as to make citizens think it is good.

      "De-Regulation" - The process by where Government and Business collude to relax regulations that businesses regret having traded off for other "regulations".

      When a citizen calls for regulation, the actually want genuine and decently written law, but when the politician hears those calls for regulation, they quickly use the fuss to fuck us citizens over every time, and the citizen usually does not see it coming. Next year, they vote back in the business whore because, sometimes, those politicians are kind enough to give a reach-a-round or knocks a few crumbs off the banquet table!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:28pm

    "agency that "would more effectively serve the goals of consumers, competitors, and Congress."

    With the right spin, you could consider this part to be true.

    Serve the goals of:

    "Consumers"
    Means ISPs, who are happy to consume customers' money without providing anything in return.

    "Competitors"
    Incumbent ISPs, who compete with each other to buy off politicians to their cause, which leads to

    "Congress"
    Who've shown that their sole concern is getting more payoffs from ISPs instead of protecting the citizens they swore a crossed-fingers oath to serve.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:28pm

    Trump's Plan Is To Gut All FCC Consumer Protection Powers

    While increasing it's corporate protection powers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:30pm

    Hey, maybe making TV prices skyrocket is what we need.
    We can see whether TV really is responsible for moral/voter/educational decay etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:36pm

    Can't you just *feel* American getting more greater? He's not even sworn in yet, and we're already so great we don't need legal protection from unethical business practicess!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:18am

      Re:

      Why yes!
      The market is self regulating.

      No need to remind industry leaders of their responsibility to the workers, industry has always treated their workers with the utmost respect and renumeration and therefore there is absolutely no reason for regulation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:47pm

    "... more effectively serve the goals of consumers, competitors, and Congress."

    Wow... able to simultaneously serve consumers and competitors! Bet one of those is going to get served better than the other.

    And as for serving Congress... I assume this little envelope, as a token of our esteem, will suffice...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 2:24pm

    Solution to the AT&T and Comcasts

    A solution is simple. Stop paying them. Cancel service. In almost every market there is at least some other choice. Frequently it's microwave interent and no TV, but hey, I've seen TV. I am glad to give it up. Sports? I can't think of anything more fitting than to stop paying for sports along with television. Way too expensive.

    So, three or four months after as few as 20% do this, telecoms will be bankrupt. End of problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Not a problem, 18 Jan 2017 @ 4:23pm

    Those who always think Government is the answer

    Sad to see so many of our tech community who seem to think the FCC is some sort of magical entity that was going to make free internet and other wonderful things happen for them. Get over it !! The FCC is a mistake !! Big government is a mistake !! Government is THE most destructive power anywhere !!! Less of it is fine and will work out because Comcast, ATT, and all the rest CANNOT make you buy their service and if you don't they hurt. And if they continue then some other technology will come in to fill the void they create by their actions. It might be wireless services, it might be high altitude repeater stations.... Who knows, but something will satisfy the need no matter what else the Telcomms do !! So stop looking to government to save you because the price of that saving is way too high !!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 18 Jan 2017 @ 5:56pm

      Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

      Well, the Government did create the Internet. And the roads. And it’s the Government’s job to ensure the air and water stay clean. And it was the Government that got rid of lead in gasoline. And it was the Government that had to legislate Obamacare, to try to raise the level of US healthcare to something approaching the rest of the developed world.

      Which your Republicans seem very unhappy about, for some reason...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:08am

        Re: Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

        Because only the white and rich are humans and should have access to these good things.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

          This is what they are talking about when they say Make America Great Again.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:07am

      Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

      It's precisely the lack of the Government that brought the US into the tail of the broadband speeds in the 'developed' nations world. I use developed very loosely nowadays but still, you got my point.

      "and all the rest CANNOT make you buy their service"

      Oh they can't? What if the option is either NO internet connection or the other duopolist that do exactly the same? Go without? Heck yeah, Middle Ages to the US! Or not.

      Wither you are naive or you are a good comedian. I assumed the latter and gave you a funny vote!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:22am

        Re: Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

        "It's precisely the lack of the Government that brought the US into the tail of the broadband speeds in the 'developed' nations world. I use developed very loosely nowadays but still, you got my point."

        I'd more say it has been the result of poor government. It has been the government itself that has protected the monopolists and duopolists from competition.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2017 @ 4:17am

          Re: Re: Re: Those who always think Government is the answer

          Exactly. You don't need a big Government for it to be effective. I would argue the bigger it is, the more susceptible it is to corruption.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 4:38pm

    "... will only go so far in preventing consumers from realizing precisely who'll be to blame."

    But, will they ("consumers") wake up to the fact that they ("consumers") are the ones to blame from ... for being willfully blind and not stopping this when it was stoppable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 5:23am

      Re:

      Hahaha - yeah, you are so right.

      and it is the consumer who is responsible for all things that go bad everywhere because those in positions of power and influence are too busy doing good work elsewhere and they simply do not have the time to help people who lack the resources to adequately defend themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2017 @ 4:39pm

    But emails!

    This is still better than electing a pizzaphile for president!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 18 Jan 2017 @ 8:32pm

    Government agencies are generally suppose to be there to make sure that the laws that apply are followed. The FCC is no different. They are given a mandate in no small part by the Communications Act and other laws, and they are there to assure that the laws passed by congress are followed.

    For more time than most care to remember, the FCC has had mission creep. The most recent group of commissioners have been perhaps the worst in this regard, taking it upon themselves to write the rules rather than just applying them. Changes such as Net Neutrality and Title II classification is something that really should have been done at the legislative level, and not at the administration level. Both of those steps, while perhaps good, are significant changes in both regulation and business models.

    Thr FCC should have worked with congress to craft legislation that would have made this the law of the land, and not just a rule document from the commission. Without being codified in law, the entire thing can be reversed within minutes, or can easily be overridden by congress stating in law that it's not the FCC's position to make such a choice. This is what is likely to happen.

    If the lack of net neutrality creates issues for consumers, then it's the FTC that should be looking into it and not the regulator of the airwaves. It's a business question and not a broadcasting issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse, 18 Jan 2017 @ 10:20pm

    AOL is coming back!

    This is how AOL will make their comeback and the swamp boys will make it happen. We will get our memberberries going and we won't mind that the internet is just even more of a shitty pay for pay cluster fuck than it is today. I wonder how the FTC will handle spectrum auctions and amateur radio license issuance and complaints. But these things really don't matter to the swap boys. The spectrum is already promised to our friends at ATT and Verizon. T-Mobile if they put it in the right hole. They could care less about us radio nerd, four hundred pound computer hacking consumers.

    What is sad is that you would have to be blind or very ignorant to the current and sad state of broadband in this country to believe that this will do good and not just roll to serve the corporate interests of the most powerful telecom companies on the planet. But then again if you "only check email and it's good enough for me" then you probably have no idea of what a good connection works like or what you are missing because you don't use the network as a business tool or for gaming.


    Just remember that they will kill everyone on your buddy list if you violate their TOS.

    Get 1000 Free Hours!


    Tell em sooooooorad@aol.com sent ya. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 1:20am

    So we're losing the dingo and gaining a pack of rabid hyenas in his place. Fantastic!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:18am

    Oh, goodie. Now we're about to discover whether or not the market can correct itself. /sarc

    >>>Of *course, his advisory team can't just call this spade a spade...

    /grammar nazi

    >>> "dollar per *holler"

    /spelling nazi

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 19 Jan 2017 @ 8:39am

    It's Drumpf's Golden(showers) years. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 9:08am

    Seeing Trump's definition of a "blind trust", I think it's obvious he has trouble with the English language. Case in point here: "draining the swamp". Hint: this is not done by adding alligators and industrial waste in the water.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:27am

    The one good thing about trump, is the notion of government reform just got a little boost, so that company shills like trump or hillary are kept far away from damaging positions untill future generations socially evolve, to the point where everyone is suitable for temporary leadership, if and only when required

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:50am

    Keep up the good work

    Karl, let me compliment you on this high-quality journalism. You're doing the public a great service by presenting them with such a sober and well-researched account of the Trumpers' Evil Plans for World Domination.

    I'm sure they're scared now that you've blown the lid off their scheme.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zeke4544, 1 May 2017 @ 2:09pm

    Right, "consumer protection" -- as if

    Not sure what the time limit for "necro'ing" a thread is, but here goes....

    What "consumer protections"? The FCC is worse than worthless, it's become a conduit for globalist elitists and free-speech opponents to push their agenda.

    Another pretentious entity pushing excessive bureaucratic involvement.

    "Consumer protections." Right. How friggin stupid can you get? How friggin stupid do you think your average workaday Joe is? He can add 9 and 5 and come up with the square root of 196.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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