Inside the FCC | Policy Leadership Conference | February 17-19, 2019 | Ft. Lauderdale
It’s hard to imagine an issue in today’s media/telecom policy universe that has sparked more controversy or inspired more passion than the innocuous-sounding Net Neutrality. How could such a seemingly simple concept – that Internet access should be open to everyone and that services should be provided on a neutral basis without discrimination by type, price, speed, or quality – create such a firestorm? Net Neutrality, then, is one of those issues that is hard to oppose in principle until the details creep in. It would be easy to frame this issue in classic policy terms of government regulation v. the marketplace. It would also be easy to frame it as a struggle to protect the average consumer from the excesses of big companies that control Internet access. And, of course, it is all too easy to characterize this as yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to throw out a policy engineered by the Obama Administration – especially since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Chairman Ajit Pai has vowed to reverse the heavy-handed Title II regulatory approach. But Net Neutrality has become more nuanced than any one of these simple formulas. Like politics, race and religion, Net Neutrality is an issue to be broached gingerly. Informed or not, everyone has an opinion on how the government should regulate the Internet, or whether it should be regulated at all. To some, the world will come to an end if net neutrality is changed. To others, net neutrality is a solution in search of a problem. In Washington, the debate divides along two well-entrenched fault lines—pro-Title II and anti-Title II. This edition of Inside the FCC presents a selected listing of the perspectives which have shaped the debate. We hope it will be instructive.
The media landscape is changing in large and dramatic ways. Against this backdrop, the current debate on media ownership takes on a special significance. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets limits on the number of radio and TV broadcast stations an entity can own, as well as common ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers. Congress requires the FCC to review its media ownership rules every four years (the quadrennial review) to determine whether the rules are in the public interest, and to repeal or modify any regulation it determines does not meet these criteria. That review is underway and nearing completion as we go to press. This edition of Inside the FCC is devoted to an examination of—what are called in the aggregate—the media ownership rules, and the broader media market that will be affected by those rules. Our hope is that this review and analysis of the rules and existing data will help to inform the current debate not only on media ownership, but also on the prospects for investment and innovation that are taking place in the broadcast industry today. With the recent and proposed mergers of unprecedented size among broadcast companies, the FCC’s impending action is more than an academic exercise. Billons of dollars are at stake. Wall Street and Main Street are watching.
There is a lot of consumer angst to go around these days—everything from rising prices to government gridlock. In the age of consumer power, many Americans have had enough, and they are just not going to take it anymore—at least not without complaining.
Consumers have a standing invitation -- and indeed a constitutional right-- to let their voices be known when they don't like the way things are going. That goes for everything from taxes to telephones. And how do we know this? We went to the source and looked at consumer complaint data from the FCC.
Starting in June 2015, the FCC began publishing consumer complaint data via the Consumer Complaint Data Center. The topics range from unwanted calls and billing problems to service availability and equipment incidents. We found that Americans are vastly more concerned with issues such as unwanted calls or service problems than they are with the issue of Net Neutrality, which was covered widely in the press. The top consumer complaints at the FCC include billing issues; service problems and unwanted telephone calls
This special edition takes a look at the numbers behind the consumer complaints.