By Shiva Stella
Today, Public Knowledge, joined by Greenlining Institute, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA), filed a petitioners’ brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit requesting the Court vacate the Federal Communications Commission’s 2017 Technology Transitions Order, which rolled back consumer protections established in the agency’s 2015 Order.
The 2015 Order enacted rules that required incumbent phone providers to notify consumers and retailers before abandoning their copper networks. The rules also forced phone providers to obtain FCC permission before ripping out a community’s copper lines, and required phone providers to carefully consider how this service change would impact a community’s network, including 911 and home alarm systems.
Public Knowledge argues that the FCC’s actions were arbitrary and capricious, and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act by eliminating important consumer protections born from nearly a decade of balanced previous rulemakings without adequate justification. Where previously the Commission had always argued that consumer protections were more important than any delay or burden carriers may face in the deployment of next generation networks, the FCC suddenly and without reason reversed course and sought deployment at any cost — even if vulnerable consumers pay the price.
Furthermore, Public Knowledge contends that the FCC failed to give adequate notice for the public to comment on the 2017 proceeding, ignored the extensive record gathered in the 2012-2016 proceedings, and simply rejected arguments and data it found inconvenient.
The following can be attributed to Daiquiri Ryan, Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“Today, Public Knowledge stands up for consumers where the current FCC certainly has not. Millions of Americans are currently left vulnerable to harmful copper retirement practices by carriers. For some of the most vulnerable populations in our country, particularly those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide, relying on the copper network is a matter of life and death.
“And yet, the FCC rolled back the Technology Transitions rules without a second thought or meaningful deliberation. Not only did the Commission completely disregard the robust evidence in the record emphasizing harms that occurred before the Commission put the 2015 rules into place, but they also dismissed the entire possibility that it could happen. Instead, the FCC shifts the burden of transitioning networks to consumers and leaves Americans to trust carriers to act in their best interest.
“But, as we saw in Fire Island after Hurricane Sandy, carriers will continue to act in their best interest, harming consumers in the process. This litigation is our best bet to protect American consumers and push back on the FCC’s deregulatory warpath.”
You may view the petitioners’ brief here.