This past week, Congress demanded answers from former Equifax CEO Richard Smith about what, exactly, went so terribly wrong in his company’s handling of its massive data breach this summer, and to ask how to keep something like this from happening again. Over the course of four hearings in both the Senate and the House, it became clear that the list of "wrongs" is lengthy. But one of the most damning revelations emerged in the aftermath of the breach in the company’s attempts to mitigate harm post-breach. To be clear, we’re not talking about mitigating consumer harm - we’re talking about Equifax protecting itself from accountability through the use of forced arbitration.
An enterprising farmer who wants to expand his steak and dairy business but can’t reach beyond his locality. A librarian who sleeps over nights and weekends so that students can come work on projects they’ve been given online. A disabled, bedridden young woman who desperately wants to be self-sufficient but has no access to online education. Two sisters who watch their father die before their eyes because they can’t get a signal to call 911.
It’s safe to say we are most of us in an era of unpredictability. Take comfort, then, in this case study in predictability, for at the very least, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has so far been everything and done everything you could expect from someone who vowed to “take a weed whacker” to the open Internet. Since his ascension, Pai’s agenda has been one of systematic rollback of consumer safeguards, one by one by one, and the latest and greatest commenced at last Thursday’s Open Meeting vote to dismantle critical net neutrality protections.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission made two huge moves to help consumers navigate the digital marketplace. The first was to finally pass its long-awaited landmark broadband privacy rules. But tucked inside that order was something equally important, if less high-profile: a commitment by the FCC that by February 2017, it will embark on a proceeding to address mandatory binding (or forced) arbitration clauses.
Every time I tell people about the Federal Communications Commission’s #UnlockTheBox proceeding, the reaction is always the same: It’s a no-brainer. They burst into rants about how much they hate the boxes, that they hate paying so much, and that they can't understand why someone hasn't done something about this cable box rip-off that results in such a lackluster product and poor service. Even as they thank heaven, the FCC, and consumer advocates for their efforts to actually fix this, they ask why it hasn’t been done sooner. It’s getting ridiculous.
Did you hear the one about the new technology that was going to run amok, squashing creativity, gobbling up every copyrighted work in its path, and redistributing it for free to all of the masses until nothing remained but scorched earth and abandoned studios across Hollywood?
Recently we highlighted the rapid effort to pass H.R. 2666 (the so-called “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act”) as a poorly crafted effort to prohibit rate regulation. We pointed out a variety of options to mitigate the consequences of the broad sweeping language. Consequences which we allowed were perhaps unintended.
It’s no small secret that America loves a saga. And in the battle for real consumer video choice, we’re just getting started. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a huge step towards loosening cable’s chokehold on consumers in the name of more choices and more innovation. It voted 3-2 in favor of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (an “NPRM,” to those in The Biz) for new digital cable box standards that would allow customers to access their programming subscriptions through devices other than those they currently lease directly from their cable company.
On tomorrow’s episode of Attempts to Undermine the Efficacy of the Federal Communications Commission, the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee will mark up H.R. 2666, the so called “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act”. Ostensibly, the one-paragraph bill appears straightforward, prohibiting the FCC from “rate regulation,” or regulating “the rates charged for broadband internet access service,” as defined by the Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order. But in fact, the inclusion of the sweeping phrase “without regard to any other provision of law,” combined with copious remarks from last month’s hearing, make it clear that the bill is simply another effort to gut the FCC’s ability to enforce net neutrality and protect broadband subscribers from overcharges and carrier abuse.
This Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments for yet another appeal of the FCC’s Open Internet rules. This time, the gloves are off as the Commission’s most recent action, the Open Internet Order of 2015, saw the FCC do what Public Knowledge has said it should have done all along by reclassifying broadband service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This historic decision received thunderous applause from innovators, tech companies, and millions of consumers alike, because it finally gives the FCC a solid legal basis for protecting broadband users.