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Hurricane Michael shows FCC why deregulation is bad

by on22 October 2018

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai remains oblivious

After Hurricane Michael hit Florida the telcos were not required by law to quickly restore the phone service – so they didn’t.

The Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai slammed wireless carriers on Tuesday for failing to quickly restore phone service calling the delay "completely unacceptable".

However the phone companies were allowed to do things at their “own pace” because the FCC removed any requirement to take any action at all.

The person who pushed through this de-regulation was FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Basically, Pai’s deregulatory blitz that left consumers without protections designed to ensure restoration of service after disasters.

The Obama-era FCC wrote new regulations to protect consumers after Verizon tried to avoid rebuilding wireline phone infrastructure in Fire Island, New York, after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in October 2012.

Pai repealed those rules, claiming that they prevented carriers from upgrading old copper networks to fibre. Pai's repeal order made zero mentions of Fire Island and refers to Verizon's response to Hurricane Sandy only once, in a footnote.

In November 2017, the FCC eliminated a requirement that telcos turning off copper networks must provide Americans with service at least as good as those old copper networks.

This change let carriers replace wireline service with mobile service only, even if the new mobile option wouldn't pass the "functional test" that Pai's FCC also eliminated.

In June 2018, Chairman Pai further deregulated telephone providers to make it easier to drop service after a natural disaster.

Telecom attorney and consumer advocate Harold Feld said: "The situation in Florida shows what happens when regulators abandon their responsibilities to protect the public based on unenforceable promises from companies eager to cut costs for maintenance and emergency preparedness.

“This should be a wake-up call for the 37 states that have eliminated traditional oversight of telecommunications services and those states considering similar deregulation: critical communications services cannot be left without public oversight."

Last modified on 22 October 2018
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