30+ FCC Actions in 2017-2018 Eliminate States Rights and Consumer Protections

By Bruce Kushnick. Sept 26, 2018; Original article here

FCC Actions for Proceeding Docket 17-79

Wireline Telecommunications Bureau (WTB)

Num Division Item Date Form
1 Office of General Counsel Doc 8/17/18 PUB NOTICE
2 WTB & WCB Docs 8/3/18 R&O
3 WCB Docs 8/2/18 OTHER
4 Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Doc 7/24/18 PUB NOTICE
5 WTB Doc 7/2/18 PUB NOTICE
6 Communications Business Opportunities Doc 5/3/18 OTHER
7 WTB Docs 3/30/18 R&O
8 WTB Doc 3/22/18 OTHER
9 WTB Docs 12/14/17 PUB NOTICE
10 WTB Docs 12/14/17 OTHER
11 WTB Docs 11/17/17 R&O
12 WTB Docs 11/16/17 OTHER
13 WTB Docs 7/13/17 ORDER
14 WTB Docs 5/26/17 ORDER
15 WTB Docs 5/11/17 PUB NOTICE
16 WTB Docs 5/11/17 PUB NOTICE
17 WTB Docs 4/21/17 NPRM
18 WTB Docs 4/20/17 OTHER
19 Office of Chairman Ajit Pai Docs 3/30/17 OTHER
20 WTB Docs 3/30/17 PUB NOTICE


FCC Actions for Proceeding Docket 17-84

Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB)

Num Division Item Date Form
21 WCB Doc 9/10/18 PUB NOTICE
22 Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Doc 9/4/2018 PUB NOTICE
23 Office of General Counsel Doc 8/17/18 PUB NOTICE
24 WCB Docs 8/3/18 R&O
25 WCB Docs 8/2/18 OTHER
26 WCB Docs 6/8/18 R&O
27 WCB Docs 6/7/18 OTHER
28 WCB Docs 1/29/17 R&O
29 WCB Docs 11/16/17 OTHER
30 WTB Docs 7/13/17 ORDER
31 Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Docs 6/6/17 PUB NOTICE
32 WCB Docs 5/16/17 PUB NOTICE
33 WCB Docs 4/21/17 NPRM
34 WCB Docs 4/20/17 OTHER
35 Office of Chairman Ajit Pai Docs 3/30/17 OTHER
36 WCB Docs 3/30/17 PUB NOTICE

On Sept 26th, 2018, the three FCC Republicans; Chairman Ajit Pai and the two commissioners, Brendan Carr and Michael O’Reilly, will out-vote the one Democrat FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, in a number of ongoing proceedings.

Starting in April 2017, the FCC created two specific FCC proceedings designed to take away the public interest obligations on communications services, slice by slice. There have been over 30+ different related actions and decisions in just these two dockets to move the AT&T and Verizon agenda along and erase basic consumer protections on all wired services — in just one year.

  • Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment WC Docket №17–84
  • Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment; WT Docket №17–79;

At the same time, the FCC is doing this so that it can then preempt the states and cities’ rights to deal with wireless 5G and small cell deployments.

Unfortunately, we already know what the vote will look like as the FCC put out an early draft. Moreover, Ajit Pai was a senior attorney for Verizon; Brendan Carr worked for Verizon as well as AT&T and the wireless association, CTIA, while Commissioner O’Reilly is a vocal friend of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Counsel. In fact, the FCC’s 5G plan being presented appears to have been created based on the ALEC model legislation for 5G wireless that has been used in multiple states.

So, more like a vote taken in Russia, where the decision has already been completed and the vote is rigged, the FCC is just doing this for show. The FCC is presenting the new digital Potemkin village 5G wireless plan, tied to the removal of basic rights and protections of customers on the wired side.

As noted by Commissioner Rosenworcel, during the past year these proceedings have already thrown the public interest under the bus. Rosenworcel writes:

“Unfortunately, I believe the bulk of this decision falls short of this statutory mark. Let me explain why. When a carrier wants to make big changes to its network, this agency had policies in place to ensure no consumers were cut off from communications. In other words, leave no consumer behind. We had rules that required carriers to educate their customers about network alterations and simply answer calls about how their service might be changed when old facilities were swapped out for new. Today the FCC guts these basic consumer protection policies. It tosses them out. It says we don’t need them.”

There Is a Subplot — Dismantle the state wired utilities, shut off the copper, and replace it with wireless.

Most of the discussion is now focused on the FCC’s removal of the rights of states and cities to manage the wireless deployments and rights of way in their own communities. As the City of Murieta, CA put it:

“The Commissions’ proposed action could force cities to lease out publicly owned property, eliminate reasonable local environmental and design review, and eliminate the ability for cities to negotiate fair leases or public benefits for the installation of “small cell” wireless equipment on taxpayer-funded property based on updated guidance.”

But there’s an important subplot — the FCC has taken a year and piled-on a collection of changes so that Verizon and AT&T can ‘shut off the copper’ wires, and not replace them with fiber optics, but to hand over the existing wires to their wireless company — because it make the companies more money. Getting rid of any state-based obligations or federal rules that remain to do this is what these proceedings are really all about.

And all of this is being done alongside a slew of other harmful concurrent actions:

  • Get rid of all competitors: There is a petition by the wireline phone association, USTelecom, to remove the rights of competitors to ‘interconnect’ and use the networks.
  • Weed Whacking: The FCC has been getting rid of all of the cost accounting rules and regulations — and any leftover rules.
  • Net Neutrality constraints have been removed so that one company can control all services over the wire, including the Internet and broadband, but also wireless, and favor their own affiliates, etc.
  • Privacy challenges continue so that that the phone, wireless, cable or internet company can track you, advertise to you, and sell your data.

In the end, more importantly, these proceedings allow the wireless companies to replace the wired networks, even for home and office use, without the safeguards and basic consumer protections.

At the Core are the Wires and FCC Treachery

In April 2017, the FCC starts and presents proceeding 17–84, and the first round is to change the regulations by claiming that this is a plan for fiber-based upgrades of the networks. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about wireless.

Re: Accelerating Wireline Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment, WC Docket №17–84.

This is released at the same time as the wireless proceeding with an almost identical name. “Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure Investment” WT Docket №17–79

But, in order to give the wireless companies carte blanche, they have to get rid of any pesky rules about the state-wired utilities and the requirements to supply basic wired services, known as the “carrier of last resort”. And it also requires the rights-of-way that were granted to the state utility to now be used by the wireless company.

Watch the Slice & Dice that Happens Over the Year.

Going through the last year is enlightening to demonstrate how the public is under attack. It is not simply about shutting off the copper; it is also about not upgrading America to fiber, even though the companies collected billions to do it.

April 20th, 2017: The first Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is announced and it starts with almost optimistic descriptions of what’s in store: “applications to discontinue”, “clarifying treatment” “network change notifications generally”.

This is an excerpt of the jargon-filled Table of Contents; the basics are — We want to shut off the copper networks and close down any obligations so we can hand the wires over to the wireless company as private property, but we will make it sound like we care.

The best way to think of all of this is — every item listed is a separate attack on a part of the law and regulations. So, even if you don’t know what “Section 214” or “Section 68” do — if the FCC is listing it and getting rid of it, it can’t be good.

NOTE: This proceeding also brings up issues pertaining to the small cell deployments; we’ll focus on the parts dealing with the wired deployments.

On November 29th, 2017, the Report and Order comes out and notice that the language in the Table of Contents has changed. Suddenly the FCC is now “expediting” everything — “expediting copper retirement”, “expediting legacy services” — no more ‘clarifying’ or other less confrontational terms. And the FCC decides to just keep going and adds a “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”.

June 7th, 2018: The FCC hasn’t stopped and within a year, there is now a “Second Report and Order” (and a host of other ‘public notices’, etc.). And the words in the Table of Contents are now downright mean: “Eliminating 2016 Outreach Requirements”, “Eliminating Notice to Customers”

This means that the companies no longer have to do a serious notification of the existing customers when they make changes and they can start ‘shutting off the copper’ in communities throughout the US and force them onto wireless or nothing.

FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel wrote:

“So what does that mean? Imagine a grandmother living in a rural community. Her service provider wants to make big network changes because the cost of serving that remote area with traditional network technology now exceeds the revenue. That makes sense for the carrier. But for our grandmother, she just wants to know that her phone, her health monitor, and her alarm system — all of which rely on her current network — continue to work. She wants a heads up. She wants to be able to navigate change and understand what will require a new contract. She wants information about what will involve a new service and at what cost.

But today the FCC says she doesn’t need her carrier to provide her with this information. That’s because she can check the FCC’s Daily Digest and figure it out for herself.

Who are we kidding? This is mean…to millions of Americans who will find that their carriers can switch out services without advance notice or consumer education, leaving them scrambling to find alternatives, reconfigure their homes and businesses in order to keep connected.”

Unfortunately, this is all just part of the overall plan that started in 2010–2012.

Quoting Verizon’s Senior Management:

“Cut the copper off,” said Lowell McAdam, former Chairman and CEO of Verizon, speaking at the Guggenheim Securities Symposium, June 21, 2012:

“And then in other areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got LTE [Verizon Wireless] built that will handle all of those services, and so we are going to cut the copper off there. We are going to do it over wireless. So I am going to be really shrinking the amount of copper we have out there, and then I can focus the investment on that to improve the performance of it.”

Francis Shammo, former EVP, Verizon, stated at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, September 22, 2016, we’re going to switch to wireless for broadband.

“But it’s going to be a fixed broadband wireless solution.

And if you think about the cost benefit of that, today, if you think about FiOS and what it costs me to connect a prem to FiOS. I have to lay the fiber down the street, but then I also have to then connect the home, go into the home, make sure the wiring is right, put in install the boxes, install the routers.

If you think about 5G, you put the fiber down the road, which is what we’re doing in Boston. Then all of the labor and the expense of drilling up your driveway connecting the OT to your house and all the labor involved with that, all that goes away, because now I can deliver a beam into your into a window with a credit card size receptor on it that delivers it to a wireless router, and there’s really no labor involved and there’s no real hardware other than the router in the credit card. So the cost benefit of this is pretty substantial, at least, we believe it is.”

Conclusion

On September, 26th, 2018, the FCC will vote on “Declaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order WT Docket №1 7–79; WC Docket №17–84”. This is yet another, 3rd report to clean out whatever has been leftover during the last year and it combines what were separate proceedings. This exposes that the original ‘wired’ proceeding was just a ruse and was about eliminating the wired networks — and handing everything over to wireless.

By using a pile-on of 30+ actions and decisions over the last year, these FCC proceedings have done a continuous stream of ‘death by 1,000 cuts’. Many cities don’t know that areas can now be shut off, at will, and replaced with wireless, even if it doesn’t work as advertised, or it costs more. This is instead of actually, properly upgrading the state infrastructure to fiber.

But, the FCC and the phone companies, AT&T and Verizon, can pile-on and overwhelm almost any of the other groups out there who are attempting to defend the public interest. They just don’t have the resources to continually file in every action — and these are only two of 20 separate ongoing proceedings, so they can’t afford to take the FCC to court easily to block every slice.

Worse, you have the Chairman and a Commissioner that were the lawyers for the companies, AT&T, Verizon and their associations. Was this all a set up?