In performing what what the FCC called illegal "sneak charges" for ring tones and other items without consent, AT&T violated FCC regulations and must now pay customers back over $88 million in charges. Leo says it amounts to about $30 per customer.
Don is calling to discuss wireless spectrum and the way it is managed. Don doesn't think most Americans really know what's happening with the sale of wireless spectrum. Leo says we own the spectrum, the air above us is property of the American people. But there has to be some way of managing it so everyone doesn't use the same frequencies. So the FCC is chartered by congress, among other things, to manage spectrum. They've determined what radio stations are on what frequencies, and that has worked for almost a hundred years now.
The FCC is considering a proposal that would make cable box rental fees a thing of the past. The plan would give third party manufacturers the right to build competing set-top boxes that users could simply purchase, rather than rent. This could cost the cable industry up to $20 billion a year in lost rental fees. The plan is similar to a plan that was placed on the telephone industry back in the 80s.
The FCC this week voted 3-2 to reclassify broadband providers as telecommunications companies. This gives the FCC the ability to regulate the internet. The FCC has tried to regulate internet service providers, but was thwarted by lawsuits. The courts agreed that the FCC had no right to regulate them unless they were telecommunications companies, not information companies. After considerable debate and 4 million comments to the FCC website, the FCC voted on Thursday to reclassify internet service providers as telecommunications companies.
Mark says if the government wants to make broadband internet a utility, the FCC should regulate it like a utility. He makes the point that the reason it's a utility is because there's only one place to get it, like the gas or electric companies. Leo says we can blame the FCC for giving the cable companies a monopoly years ago. But he says they had been more or less blackmailed into that decision because the cable companies told the FCC they wouldn't build out the infrastructure otherwise.
Adrian is worried that the FCCs proposed Net Neutrality rules are still worse than what we have now. What can he do to have his concerns known? Leo says that the need to protect the Internet is important and most people who are sounding the alarm bells really don't understand it. But if he's concerned, he should go to the FCC and email the commissioners. They're going to be the ones who make the decision on the new rules. You can find their email addresses here:
President Obama this week came out in favor of Net Neutrality by regulating Internet Service Providers as common carriers, giving the FCC the power to prevent paid prioritization. This means Internet Service Providers would not be allowed to charge extra for faster access to customers.
Net Neutrality: President Obama's Plan for a Free and Open Internet (WhiteHouse.gov)…
Dave is concerned with Net Neutrality and the deadline looming to comment about the new rules the FCC is trying to put in place. He thinks the government should regulate the big three providers so the little guy won't get lost or swallowed up. Leo says they can't do that because of equal protection laws. The issue is that ISPs shouldn't be able to block content until that content pays for access to the customer. But the courts have thrown out the FCC rules anyway and have come up with new rules, which Leo says has some good and bad aspects.