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Why You Can't Take the FCC's ISP Transparency Pledge Seriously
They've Let ISPs Abuse Below-The-Line Fees for a Decade
by Karl Bode 02:56PM Wednesday Jul 23 2014
While Verizon's legal victory over the FCC did gut the agency's net neutrality rules, it kept some of the FCC's authority over ISPs intact -- specifically the agency's transparency rules -- which require that ISPs be straightforward about the "network management practices, performance, and commercial terms" of their broadband services.

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In a statement issued today, the FCC "reminded" wireline and wireless ISPs alike that those rules are still intact and need to be adhered to, lest the agency lightly slap a wrist or two -- maybe.

"Consumers deserve to get the broadband service they pay for," FCC boss Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "After today, no broadband provider can claim they didn’t know we were watching to see that they disclose accurate information about the services they provide."

"We expect providers to be fully transparent about the details of their services, and we will hold them accountable if they fall down on this obligation to consumers," continues Wheeler.

Will they? The transparency rules Wheeler mentions are also supposed to govern pricing, requiring that ISPs are transparent about monthly pricing and various fees tacked on to user broadband bills.

Yet as I've noted numerous times over the last decade, ISPs consistently are allowed to bury all manner of nonsensical fees below the line, allowing them to covertly jack up consumer broadband bills while leaving the advertised price the same. This is technically false advertising, but I've never seen the FCC (or any other regulator) seriously address the practice.

The practice not only fools consumers into paying more for service, it skews telecom policy debate and discussion. Most international and domestic price analysis comparisons use the advertised price. The United States already has some of the most expensive broadband in the world (OECD data); imagine how we rank were one to include fees?

These days of course there's numerous activation, installation, router and modem rental fees, fees for paying your bill in person, fees for paying your bill via credit card over the phone, etc. These fees, usually communicated "transparently" via mouseprint, are all used to jack up the already-high price of US broadband and television services, but at least some of them are tied to actual costs incurred by the ISP. There's numerous other fees charged that involve companies doing absolutely nothing, and exist solely to pad the advertised price post sale.

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CenturyLink, for example, charges millions of its users a $1 Internet Cost Recovery Fee and a $1-2 Non Telecom Surcharge that involve the company doing absolutely nothing.

For years, ISPs have also charged users "regulatory cost recovery fees," claiming these non-government mandated fees offset the cost of ambiguous, unspecified regulation (you're to ignore the fact the telecom industry has been massively deregulated over the last decade).

Most cable operators have also started charging something called a "broadcast TV surcharge" to counter soaring retransmission increases, despite the fact users are already supposed to be paying for programming hikes as part of their already-skyrocketing overall TV bill. Verizon covertly jacks up the price of voice service via an "FDV Administrative Charge" to bury programming hikes below the line and keep advertised rates the same. AT&T takes things even further, charging U-Verse users two completely different fees for this same purpose.

Is letting these kinds of fees continue for a decade the kind of tough enforcement the FCC and Tom Wheeler are talking about? Before anybody can take FCC threats of tough transparency enforcement seriously, they'll need to address the fact they've let ISPs engage in aggressive false advertising on price for almost as long as broadband and television have existed.

Want things to change sometime over the next decade? Tell the FCC you consider sneaky fees to be false advertising.

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nothing00

join:2001-06-10
Centereach, NY

1 recommendation

Verizon vs Netflix

When is the FCC going to force to Verizon to disclose to consumers that a large portion of the Internet (passed via Netflix's ISPs) will be slow because they decided not to upgrade their border connections?

Hot air. Just hot air.
serge87

join:2009-11-29
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS

Re: Verizon vs Netflix

said by nothing00:

When is the FCC going to force to Verizon to disclose to consumers that a large portion of the Internet (passed via Netflix's ISPs) will be slow because they decided not to upgrade their border connections?

Hot air. Just hot air.

Never. The FCC and the ISPs are all but one and the same. Look at where former FCC get top positions at - verizon, comcast, et al. FCC= revolving corporate door

cork1958
Cork
Premium
join:2000-02-26

Because you never could before

"Why You Can't Take the FCC's ISP Transparency Pledge Seriously"

As subject states!
--
The Firefox alternative.
»www.mozilla.org/projects/seamonkey/
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA

1 recommendation

Government is as government does...

The government isn't about to address below-the-line-fees; the public might realize how much they pay in below-the-line taxes.
Kearnstd
Space Elf
Premium
join:2002-01-22
Mullica Hill, NJ
kudos:1

Re: Government is as government does...

taxes that were supposed to improve telecom infrastructure but where they went nobody knows. Other than pockets of people who should not have gotten the money.
--
Filan - Aurin Spellslinger - Pago - Team Legacy
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

Re: Government is as government does...

No, just plain old taxes that are remitted to the treasury, not for telecom improvements.

Besides, even if a tax is slated to fund only a specific purpose, all it is doing is increasing total revenues and offsetting that amount in the general fund, and that's if you actually believe they won't get creative and "borrow", loan, or otherwise steal the money.

Better to simply stop it cold, or at least, make the company pay it, so they'll use their influence to stop it.

How long did it take to retire the Spanish American War tax?

tshirt
Premium,MVM
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5

2 recommendations

lest the agency lightly slap a wrist or two...

... Known in the hood as a high five?

fg8578

join:2009-04-26
Salem, OR

Have the courage of your convictions

If consumers really believed they've been the victim of false advertising, they should sue. Go talk to an attorney, the initial consultation is free.

But nobody is suing either because (1) they don't really believe they have a case, or (2) they are too lazy and would rather put up with (and pay for) the abuse. Complaining online won't change anything. Hit them where it counts: in their pocketbook!

If you think you've been wronged, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Talk to a lawyer.
rfrooney

join:2006-02-26
Antioch, TN

Re: Have the courage of your convictions

To make it cost effective, it would have to be a class action lawsuit. Some states have very restrictive conditions that must be met.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

Re: Have the courage of your convictions

Class action lawsuits are also now barred by binding arbitration restrictions in user agreements.

Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY

Re: Have the courage of your convictions

said by Karl Bode:

Class action lawsuits are also now barred by binding arbitration restrictions in user agreements.

That hasn't been challenged in court yet and I'm quite sure it would be voided by the courts if it ever was challenged.
--
Written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking

tshirt
Premium,MVM
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Have the courage of your convictions

said by Msradell:

and I'm quite sure it would be voided by the courts if it ever was challenged.

good luck to you, like any sport you have to put skin in the game, even if the other side has "a sure thing".
"Winning is everything, losing hurts like hell, forever"
be sure you have a good case.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39
It's possible I'm wrong, but I believe the Supreme Court signed off on this practice a few years ago via the AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion case:

»en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AT%26T_Mob···ncepcion

reitwagen

@166.137.89.x
This.
rfrooney

join:2006-02-26
Antioch, TN

1 recommendation

I'll say it again...

America has the best politicians that money can buy.

How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving.
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT

...

I think it was my old dial-up ISP that secretly added a tech support fee to their service. Their ad promised $9.95 a month for life for unlimited monthly usage. Several years later I discovered that they had added a tech support fee to the bill. I forget if it was monthly or yearly, but I was never notified that they were going to do this. I believe I was told that it was optional, even though I was never given the option ahead of time of refusing it.

Or maybe it was U-Verse. I honestly don't remember now.

jseymour

join:2009-12-11
Waterford, MI

The FCC: Then vs. Now

Once Upon A Time the FCC's role was to protect the public's interest in the use of the airwaves. That eventually came to include landlines. Partly as a result of good governance on the part of the FCC, the U.S. once had broadcasting networks and phone service that were the envy of the rest of the world.

Now the FCC's role seems to be more one of finding ways to provide cover for monopolistic, predatory behaviour. As a result: While the rest of the world enjoys moving smartly into the 21st century, the U.S., once the center of technological innovation, slowly but surely slips into technological Third World status.

More succinctly, if more crudely: For consumers the FCC is about as useful as teats on a boar hog.

Jim

jlivingood
Premium,VIP
join:2007-10-28
Philadelphia, PA
kudos:2

Comcast's Disclosures

You can find Comcast's transparency disclosures at:
»networkmanagement.comcast.net/
--
JL
Comcast

Flyonthewall

@206.248.154.x

This is how lobbying is paid for.

Customers are paying more so their ISP can afford to lobby against their interests. You don't really think the ISP would use their own money for that, do you?