FCC Votes to Eliminate More Consumer Protections in Rural Downgrade

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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Second Report and Order on “Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment” to further eliminate consumer protections previously adopted by the Commission to ensure phone carriers provided notice and access to replacement services when discontinuing legacy services.

The Commission is eliminating crucial protections of the Communications Act meant to provide consumers with notice, educational materials, and purposeful processes when transitioning from legacy to next-generation services. Public Knowledge argues that removing these safeguards will leave consumers vulnerable to service downgrades with almost no notice or even an adequate replacement, further widening the digital divide for vulnerable populations.

The following can be attributed to Daiquiri Ryan, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:

“Today, the FCC made it clear that they will no longer protect Americans during the transition of the copper network. Instead, the Commission is sidestepping its congressional mandate and giving carriers a free pass to ignore vulnerable consumers. This order puts rural communities, small businesses, the elderly, and people with disabilities at risk of experiencing a downgrade in service or, worse, losing access to vital services like 911.

“Chairman Pai portrays this downgrade for rural America as a means of encouraging broadband deployment through regulation. But nothing in the order changes the basic incentives of carriers to short change low-income customers, particularly in expensive to serve rural areas. To the contrary, today’s action actually makes it easier for carriers to replace legacy networks with inadequate service.

“By voting through this sweeping elimination of consumer protections -- in addition to the November 2017 Order -- the Commission is allowing carriers to profit off of its decision to abandon consumers.”

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