Enough. Time for a ‘Clean Sweep’ Agenda for the FCC and America

14 Critical Points to Take Back Our Networks.

Image for post
Image for post

CLICK FOR PART I: Please Sir May I have Another? How many things are wrong with America’s communications thanks to the current FCC policies?

GOAL: Through State and Federal Actions, (though it varies by state), fix the Digital Divide by halting billions of dollars in cross-subsidies per state to wireless and the other businesses, then use these funds to return the state utilities to serve the public, bringing high speed fiber optic networks to all areas, at affordable rates, with Universal Service obligations — and opening them to all forms of competition.

IMPORTANT: This plan does not rely on government funding but on accountability, enforcement of laws, accurate data, and going after the improper, if not illegal financial cross-subsidies uncovered by the Irregulators.

However, no serious change can occur until we remove the power of AT&T et al. over the utilities that should have been upgraded to fiber and not left to deteriorate, as is the case in almost every state.

1) Clean Sweep of Corporate Interests at the FCC: No organization, company or person who has direct ties, financial or otherwise, to the telecom, cable and media companies that the FCC has regulatory oversight over shall be on the FCC transition team, on an advisory committee, act as chairman or commissioner, or has an executive position.

§ The Consumer Advisory Committee should only be comprised of consumers.

2) Lower Rates ImmediatelyRemove All Taxes, Fees and Surcharges that are not mandated by a government agency. These made up-fees have added 15–40% to the actual bills.

3) Truth-in-Billing; Truth in Advertising, Truthful Statements or Penalties — The telecom, cable, internet and media industries must make (true) verified statements or have penalties with potential indictments for perjury imposed — and it should include the bills, advertisements and statements, customer service — all communications. These include:

§ Remove the word “unlimited” from all advertising that is not “TRULY” unlimited”;

§ Remove all promotional pricing; all prices charged shall be in the advertisement.

§ Require full disclosure of all prices on web sites; add a calculator for all legitimate taxes and fees.

§ The speed of the service shall match the advertised speed.

§ Statements about deployments of wireless, broadband, fiber optic or other services, must be factual; claiming a ‘city’ has a service, shall require over 75+% coverage.

§ Go after all “Whamming”, “Slamming”, “Cramming”, and “Digital Stalking”.

4) A ‘Follow the Money’ Audit — Investigate and halt the billions in cross-subsidies that have been used to fund wireless, interstate and information services with the state public telecom utilities. This impacts all FCC proceedings of the last decade.

§ These subsidies are caused by deformed FCC rules that were set 2 decades ago and never changed or even examined, but are still in use, regardless of what the FCC claims.

5) America’s Broadband History has been Rewritten by the FCC; it left out the all state-based broadband commitments made by the telecom industry or the serious overcharging of consumers for fiber optic services that were never delivered.

6) Investigate the ‘guts’ of the networks, known as “Backhaul”, for inflated profitsAt the core, America is overcharged because the companies that control the physical wires (“backhaul” also called “BDS” or “Special Access”) control wireline and wireless service prices, both retail prices as well as the costs charged to competitors to use the networks.

7) Investigate the Manipulation of the Accounting of Access Lines — 85% of the telecommunication wires that go to homes and offices, or the cell sites or lines used by competitors, have been left out of the accounting, which was done to support the telco public policies, like raising rates or tax savings.

§ Where are the broadband lines? Where’s the areas not upgraded — will be revealed.

8) State and Federal Joint Board needs to be redesigned to represent the Public Interest. It has been dysfunctional and neglected, even though it is supposed balance state and federal issues.

9) Create an Independent Advocate for Business and Consumer Interests — With all of the mergers and consolidation over the last 3 decades, there is no serious balance from competition to protect the Public Interest.

10) Reverse All FCC Harmful Decisions Made under the Current Republican Administration — There has been wave after wave of harmful actions taken by the FCC to remove customer protections and/or to just help AT&T et al. Every FCC proceeding failed to acknowledge (ignored) that there are state utilities and cross-subsidy issues that impacted all of the financial analyses used by the FCC in every rulemaking; this provides a starting point.

11) Break Up Big Telecom — Start State and Federal Proceedings for a Second Divestiture: “Divestiture II”. In 1984, Ma Bell, (now AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink), was broken up because it had too much control over America’s communications. Now, again, it is time to:

§ Separate the wires from the companies’ other subsidiaries,

§ Stop the cross-subsidies and

§ Use the money to upgrade the state utility to fiber optics to everyone.

§ These networks need to be open to direct competition to lower rates.

§ Maintain the existing copper wires until they are upgraded to fiber.

12) Solving Net Neutrality & Privacy — The actions mentioned, including competition and separating the companies from the wires, stops the ability of the ISPs to harm us.

13) Cities Should Light the Dark Fiber — The majority of the fiber optic wires were never put into service by AT&T and Verizon. Cities should take the wires back and use them.

14) States initiate a similar plan with the same goals — Fiber optic services to everyone, paid for by halting the cross-subsidies and redirecting the utility construction budgets and removing the dumping of corporate expenses can begin immediately.

§ How much could be overcharged in your state?

=========================

CODA

There are many groups, politicians, corporate-funded think tanks and non-profits, pundits, not to mention the telecoms, sometimes called “ISPs” — AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink, as well as the cable companies, and their associations — all putting forth broadband plans to solve the Digital Divide. Some want to give $50–100 billion in government subsidies, others want no regulations and obligations on the companies because they claim there is competition and some make-believe service called “5G” is really the future.

It is time to take back the utilities before they are taken from us.

Unknown to most, we are at the tipping point of the end game. AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink, are holding companies that control America’s wired utilities, like AT&T California or Verizon New York or CenturyLink Colorado. These are not just the ‘copper wires’ but almost all wires, including the fiber optic wires for Verizon fiber to the home FiOS, or the wires to the cell sites for Verizon Wireless. Because only a few companies control the wires, (and they have not entered each other’s territories for wired competition) they also control the price of wireless services or the price competitors pay.

Through a slight of hand with the FCC’s cost accounting rules, over the last 2 decades they were able to start to pour the expenses into the state utility while all of these other services using these networks got a discounted or free ride — the subsidiaries have been subsidized by you being overcharged from all of the items in the previous list. And this manipulation of the accounting caused the Digital Divide, and left whole areas of the states unfinished because the funds were diverted.

And with the help of the companies influencing the FCC, at this time, the FCC has removed almost all of the consumer protections, allowed all of the prices to continue to rise, killed off net neutrality and is dismantling the utilities by moving the profitable parts of the business into these other subsidiaries

Think of it as you paid for a turkey and you get the bones while others are feasting.

This plan, then, the Clean Sweep, is to stop these subsidies and have these funds build out the fiber optic infrastructure and lower prices and open the networks to competition.

But, There Are Roadblocks.

AT&T et al. pay thousands of groups, politicians — from state legislatures to state commissions, as well as congressmen and senators to back their position — and this crosses party lines and these are not short term arrangements. As we pointed out, the last Democrat FCC administration was run by the former CEO of the wireless association, CTIA, and this FCC had a former Verizon attorney as chairman, while the current 5G regulations are based on model legislation created by ALEC that have been funded by AT&T et al. over the last decade.

With the pandemic, a new level of just how far we have fallen is now visible, though most don’t understand that it was caused by the mostly corporate-controlled, failed public policies of the FCC. The FCC is about to be restarted, and unless it takes these issues seriously, removing what’s behind the mask, America will be shaking our heads a decade from now wondering why nothing has seriously changed.

The Good News: The States are Independent of the FCC and Can Act Now: In March 2020, IRREGULATORS v FCC was decided and it frees the states to go after the subsidies, independent of the FCC.

About the IRREGULATORS

Written by

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 38 years, and I have been playing the piano for 63 years.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store