Public Interest Groups Urge FCC Chairman to Maintain Tech Transition Rules, Protect Consumers

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Today, Public Knowledge joined Communications Workers of America and 20 rural, consumer, civil rights, labor, and other groups in a letter urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to retain the agency’s tech transitions rules that protect consumers while providers like Verizon transition from copper to fiber networks. The agency plans to roll back these consumer protections on November 16, effectively downgrading rural America.

Public Knowledge also joined Communications Workers of America, Institute for Local Self Reliance, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Kentucky Resources Council in an ex parte filing urging the FCC to protect the public interest by maintaining the agency’s existing copper retirement notification rules.

The letter to Chairman Pai states:

“The Commission should retain these balanced, common sense technology transition rules.  There remain 48 million Americans who continue to subscribe to the legacy copper network for essential communications service. Many reside in rural communities with no alternative for affordable, reliable communications service. Many are elderly consumers or other vulnerable populations. Current rules ensure that telecommunications companies cannot simply abandon service to them without adequate advance notice and ensuring that an adequate replacement service exists.

“But the draft Wireline Broadband Deployment Report and Order virtually ignores the detailed comments and reply comments many of us submitted in this proceeding. Instead, the draft Report and Order represents a major step backwards, putting consumers at risk, particularly in rural communities, the elderly and vulnerable populations.”

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

“The Commission has a statutory mandate and obligation to ensure that all Americans receive an upgrade in the national network infrastructure. The 2015 rules did exactly this. By rolling back these consumer protections, the Commission is not only leaving consumers in the dark, but also violating the Administrative Procedure Act. Redefining service and reversing the currently effective rules without a proper notice and comment period is another step in Chairman Pai’s agenda to downgrade rural America and upgrade corporate profits. Traditional canons of statutory interpretation, Commission precedent, and case law all require the Commission to continue interpreting service as it was intended to be interpreted by Congress: to serve the public interest and necessity. If the Commission votes to approve the draft Order as is, it will likely see a legal challenge from consumers who will be harmed by its under-the-radar actions.”

The following can be attributed to Debbie Goldman, Telecommunications Policy Director at Communications Workers of America:

We’ve already seen the dangers that can happen when carriers don’t consider how change in service impacts a community -- just ask Fire Island, NY. That's where Verizon replaced damaged landlines with wireless service that didn’t work with health monitors, alarms, fax machines, and equipment for the hearing impaired. The FCC’s radical plan opens the door to thousands of Fire Islands across America.”

You may view the letter and the ex parte filing for more information.

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