News

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
ajit pai, fcc, hurricanes, rick scott, service outages



Consumer Groups Say FCC Deregulatory Fever Harming Hurricane Michael Recovery

from the zero-oversight dept

By now Techdirt readers should be fairly keyed into FCC head Ajit Pai's schtick: kill most meaningful oversight over the telecom sector at the industry's direct behest (including net neutrality and modest privacy rules), then proudly proclaim you've unleashed a tidal wave of innovation, investment, and competition. When you look a little closer however, you'll generally find that the justifications for such moves not only ignore the will of the public and engineering expertise, but are often based entirely on evidence free lobbying claims from the industry itself. You'll also find the promised competition and innovation never materializes.

Consumer groups say this same, evidence-optional, industry-cozy approach has fueled the FCC's attempts to hold telecom operators accountable for lagging post-hurricane repairs.

You might recall that Verizon used Hurricane Sandy as cover to effectively stop upgrading huge swaths of its fixed-line networks. Countless customers on traditional copper voice and DSL lines were suddenly left without service or repairs, with Verizon claiming that capped, expensive, frequently unavailable and oft-congested wireless service was a "good enough" replacement for them (those users disagreed). That, in turn, resulted in the previous FCC passing some rules saying that if you're going to kill off landline service, you need to replace it with something at least equal in quality.

But like everything else Pai touches, those rules, in addition to other consumer protections (like state rules holding carriers accountable for missed deadlines or unfulfilled promises on refunds), were quickly stripped away under the claim it would bring "greater innovation and investment" to the telecom sector. Fast forward to this month, and consumer groups are arguing that much of this mindless deregulation is actively harming recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

Both Ajit Pai and Florida Governor Rick Scott have been issuing press missives claiming they're "holding carriers accountable." But consumer groups like Public Knowledge say that both Pai and Scott are oddly forgetting to mention that their blind deregulatory efforts managed to throw some very useful guidance and protections out the window, making the existing problem worse:

"What Governor Scott and Chairman Pai have not done is take responsibility for how their radical deregulation of telephone service has contributed to this unfortunate situation. In 2011, Governor Scott signed the “Regulatory Reform Act of 2011,” which eliminated virtually all oversight of Florida’s residential telephone service. This included repeal of Florida’s “Carrier of Last Resort” (COLR) requirements – rules that require carriers to provide service to everyone in the state – as well as repeal of Public Service Commission (PSC) regulations governing service blackouts, timeliness of repairs, or regulation of customer billing.

"In November 2017, Chairman Pai repealed many of the safeguards put in place by the Obama FCC following Superstorm Sandy, designed to prevent recurrence of the lengthy loss of service (and in some cases, discontinuance of service) suffered in many areas after Sandy. In June 2018, Chairman Pai further deregulated telephone providers to make it easier to discontinue service after a natural disaster."

As we've long noted, blind deregulation of healthier, more competitive sectors certainly can go a long way toward protecting innovation if the "solutions" being applied aren't particularly intelligent. But telecom, a sector where natural monopolies wield immense political power, is an entirely different animal. When you gut all the federal and state guidelines governing these companies you don't magically see innovation and investment spring forth from the sidewalks. Instead you see a doubling down of all the worst behaviors, since neither competition nor healthy regulatory oversight remains to hold bad players accountable.

It's not clear how long we intend to keep mindlessly deregulating everything in telecom (instead of say, intelligently considering each instance of regulation on its merits) — but it's fairly obvious any meaningful cultural enlightenment on this point is still well over the horizon.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 10:49am

    Hoping that's a typo

    As we've long noted, blind deregulation of healthier, more competitive sectors certainly can go a long way toward protecting innovation if the "solutions" being applied aren't particularly intelligent.

    Blind regulation or deregulation should never be treated as a smart option. If a regulation is hurting actual innovation(not just 'those rules are keeping us from 'innovating' new ways to screw our customers/marks'), or a lack of regulation is causing problems(see: current telecom industry) then specific, fact based decisions can be made on which regulation(s) should be added or repealed to best fix the problem at hand.

    If evidence shows that there's a problem, and an argument supported by good evidence can be made that it's regulations based(whether lack of or too much) then by all means takes step to address it by either adding or removing specific regulations, but blindly doing either has a far too high a chance of just making the problem worse.

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 3:51pm

      Re: Hoping that's a typo

      Yes, they clearly meant BLONDE deregulation. ;)

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 4:08pm

        Re: Re: Hoping that's a typo

        Are you assuming that one side or the other is having more fun? It might be a good way to sell hair coloring products but not a good way to sell telecom services.

        Which makes one wonder, well two things, first are the customers being rebated appropriate amounts of money for their lack of service, and why the hell would anyone actually want a service that was so easily disabled?

        Sure, the up-time (for this comment we will leave out reasons other than natural disasters when considering reasons for downtime) is significantly higher than downtime, but I would imagine that communication in times of emergency would be high on the list of reasons people might have telecom capabilities.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Chip, 22 Oct 2018 @ 12:34pm

    I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

    I "told" All of you Sycophantic "idiots" THIS would "happen"! I told "you" that By allowing Regulations, aht would Mean that someday there "would" be an ELECTION and Different "eople" might Get Elected and then take away Regulations, therefor All "regulations" are Bad! This only Happen because "regulations"! If there wasw no Regulations, then they couldn't "remove" the Regulations! It is so Simple and "boious" and I don't Unerstand how Tech Dirt is so FULLo f scophantic Idiots and KNOBS who do not see how Smart I "am".

    All Regulations are BAD, such as Regulations on "lead" in Paint! I LOVE leaded "paint", it is "delicious".

    But goverment "regulatiors" keep Trying to "punish" Paint Makers for putting Lead in their Paint, instead of letting the Fee "market" decid3 that paint "chips" are DELICIOUS!

    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-lead-paint-20181015-story.html

    I do not "know" why Tech Dirt does not "cover" this Important STORY about the "governmen" trying to take away my PAINT CHIPS. Is it because they are KNOBX and MINIONS? Hmmmm!

    Here is "another" Artical about Regulations interfering with the "free Market"!

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181019120726.htm

    God amn Government Regulations have Reduce "deaths" do to POLLUTION. God damn Government meddling! Let the "free Market" decide whethe or not "people" should be Killed by "Hurricans" or "Pollutions" or delicious Delicious "Leaded Paint"!

    Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

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

    • identicon
      kallethen, 22 Oct 2018 @ 12:39pm

      Re: I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

      Honestly, the parody accounts are getting more tiresome than the trolls they are making fun of.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2018 @ 1:21pm

        Re: Re: I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

        Parody stops being funny when it's indistinguishable from what's coming out of the mouths of the people driving policy.

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

        • icon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 2:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

          I have never considered Chip's posts to be parody, for exactly the reason you have stated.

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

        • identicon
          Rocky, 22 Oct 2018 @ 2:31pm

          Re: Re: Re: I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

          As someone once said (paraphrased),

          if you get your jollies from pretending to be an idiot,
          you will soon find yourself surrounded by idiots believing they are in good company.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2018 @ 8:18pm

          Re: Re: Re: I TOLD YOU SOOOOOOOOO

          Eh, says you. I'd rather deal with Thad's outrageous exaggeration than Paint Anarchist's constant disdain.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2018 @ 12:40pm

    If you have a requirement that a utility of last resort must be in effect then you are saying its not a private entity aand instead it is a public necessity.

    Yet more evidence that the FCC shouldn't have vacated the reclassification of the ISPs.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2018 @ 1:23pm

      Re:

      Ah; but that's probably WHY Pai got rid of utility of last resort rules -- because if he hadn't, those rules could be pointed to in arguing that landlines and data lines are a public necessity, and so under the remit of the FCC.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 22 Oct 2018 @ 1:17pm

    Would love

    A list of the Deregulation that have occurred..

    How much crap is really happening..
    A group that does not understand that Capitalism needs abit of control, is abit ignorant.
    UNLESS, you are willing to HOLD them to the ideals of REAL competitiveness, and WHEN THEY FAIL...THEY GO AWAY..And make room for others.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2018 @ 9:44pm

    Outlaw corporations. Look at all the trouble they cause. Coerce people to commit treason and rob people of their privacy, money and rights. Lets just BOYCOTT THEM INTO OBLIVION. Thank you.

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


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