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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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:08am

    Verizon probably suffered a mysterious DDoS in the exact moment the firefighters were working. What an incredible coincidence! - Ajit Pai

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

  • icon
    hij (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:13am

    Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

    Unfortunately, the news cycle is only about three hours long now days, so this event has been all but forgotten. This morning's anger du jour is something about google not being fair and balanced. Who knows what this afternoon will bring!?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:46am

      Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

      Governments are reflections of its people.

      Until people stop being shallow this problem is not going away.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

        People are a product of their government.
        Until governments stop being shallow this problem is not going away.

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

        • identicon
          Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:05pm

          Re: People are a product of their government.

          In a democracy, it is the Government that answers to the People, not the other way round.

          Do you live in a democracy?

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

      • identicon
        Chip, 28 Aug 2018 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

        Paint "chips" are REflections of it's PEOPLE.

        Until PEOPLE "stop" being Shallow this Problm is NOT "going" AWAY!

        Every Nation eats the Paint chips i t Desrves!

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

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:06pm

        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?

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

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:39pm

          why not vote to change it?

          When 0.02% decide the agenda of the government, as is the case in the United States, there is little cause to vote except to prevent the Wrong Candidate from winning.

          And that didn't work this last time.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2018 @ 1:14am

          Re: Re: Governments are reflections of its people.

          People can only vote for the candidates that stand for office, doing so costs a lot of money, and therefore those with money select the candidates. That is going to be difficult to change, because it needs to be done by those who benefit from the status quo.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 10:27am

      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.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 10:45am

        Re: Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

        Political agendas are part of it. But a lot of it's driven by ratings and clicks. When you treat the news as entertainment, then your bias is toward stories and headlines that draw eyeballs, not necessarily stories that are important.

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

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 10:46am

      Re: Too late, it has been forgotten anyway

      But the story is already evidence in one lawsuit, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more lawsuits to follow.

      Has the public forgotten? Maybe. But that doesn't much matter to a judge or jury.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Gotta Newmania, 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:34am

    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.

    OTHERWISE IT'S JUST ONE OF MILLIONS OF ACCOUNTS.

    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?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:01am

      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!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:30am

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

      This is a good example of someone ranting about things that they have little understanding of.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:31am

      boy

      The only child in this situation is you.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:49am

      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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 8:00am

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

      You're incoherent.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 2:01pm

      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.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:39am

    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.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Muhammad luqman, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:26am

    New Winter Master Replica Collections 2018

    Master Replica Sale with new winter collections All Master Brands with awesome fabric

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

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:32am

    Liability

    I'd be interested in seeing what level of liability would fall on Verizon if the throttling/delaying of emergency services led to someone's death.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 28 Aug 2018 @ 7:36am

    The FCC o9wns Trump. Ever hear him criticize them? EVER?

    Russia is a diversion. Wrong country.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 8:09am

    Too big to punish.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 8:34am

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 28 Aug 2018 @ 9:01am

    Wave wand

    Well if the FCC can wave a magic wand and remove all its authority. Then the FTC can wave that same magic wand and grant it the authority to crush bad companies.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 10:29am

    By the corporations, for the corporations. Us plebs and what happens to us don't count for shit to the politicians.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 1:32pm

    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.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 4:06pm

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2018 @ 6:22pm

      Re: Grasping at straws

      "no matter what happens he always knows who's to blame"

      This, from you, is hilarious.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 9:51am

      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.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Richard Bennett (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 6:06pm

    Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

    Google: "False Alarm: Verizon’s Fire Department Customer Service Fail Has Nothing to Do with Net Neutrality" by Berin Szoka on Medium.

    Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 8:50pm

      Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

      Was wondering where you went - damage control was a bitch, eh Dick?

      Are your knees still functional?

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Richard Bennett (profile), 28 Aug 2018 @ 9:07pm

        Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

        Can you translate your cryptic comment into Earthling, Coward?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2018 @ 9:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

          It is in Earthling. Do they not have nuance or prose where you come from? Or do you have to pay a fast lane for that? Either way, I'm not doing your damn homework for you.

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            icon
            Richard Bennett (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 10:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

            So no to drugs, Coward.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2018 @ 7:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

              This is what happens when you get bots to post comments for you, Bennett. You have no idea when other people are calling you a corporate fluffer...

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 9:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

              Very good Richard, he doesn't use drugs. But your lack of comprehension of the English language, not to mention your inability to write in it, is showing again.

              Try again Richard.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 9:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

          Psst, that English for "you took a beating and were off licking your wounds" but at least we know you don't understand English now. Explains a lot.

          Try again Richard.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2018 @ 8:38pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Read this to find out what really went down at the SCC FD

            You're being polite.

            I basically called him a cocksucker for Pai.

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

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 28 Aug 2018 @ 11:57pm

      Re: Bode's story is a complete disgrace.

      In what way?

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

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 8:58am

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

        It isn't kissing the scammers' feet enough.

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

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          icon
          Richard Bennett (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 10:56am

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

          It's a Google/Facebook suckup, like everything he writes. The errors of fact and significant omissions are legion. Read the story I mentioned to see a coherent and factual account.

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

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 1:48pm

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

            Funny, every time I've seen you attempt to back up claims like that, the only lies and omissions you provided were your own.

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

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              icon
              Richard Bennett (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 2:06pm

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

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

              • icon
                Toom1275 (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 4:24pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2018 @ 4:45pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

                  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
                    icon
                    Richard Bennett (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 4:46pm

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

                    That anonymous comment is mine.

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

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 10:05am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.)

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

                  • icon
                    Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Aug 2018 @ 6:47pm

                    "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.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 10:03am

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

                Too many words?

                No, just none that are true or mean what you think they mean.

                Try again Richard.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 10:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2018 @ 9:54am

      What part of "no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization" do you not understand?

      They throttled and forced them to pay for what was, essentially, prioritization. I don't know how much more textbook definition you can get of a violation of net neutrality.

      Try again Richard.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
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    Good job

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


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