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Radio News: FCC announces fines, and net neutrality rules

Mar 12, 2015 9:46 pm
On March 11 the Federal Communications Commission fined Optic Internet Protocol, Inc., an Alpharetta, GA telephone company, $7,620,000 for changing consumers’ long distance carriers without their authorization (“slamming”), placing unauthorized charges for service on consumers’ telephone bills (“cramming”), and submitting fabricated audio recordings as “proof” that consumers had authorized the company to switch their carriers. “Consumers should be able to count on companies not to load their phone bills with phony charges” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “The FCC will enforce the law to the fullest extent possible to stop companies from taking advantage of consumers by switching their telephone carriers and placing charges on their telephone bills without authorization.” Optic made up its own audio recordings to “prove” that consumers authorized changes in their services, and then played the bogus recordings for consumers and produced them for law enforcement. The FCC has taken nearly 30 enforcement actions for cramming or slamming in the past five years, with more than $90 million in penalties, and more than $200 million returned to consumers. On March 12, the FCC also announced its net neutrality rules, according to Dominic Rushe in The Guardian. The 313-page document includes, "new rules [that] ban internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or 'throttling' any legitimate service online. The FCC also outlawed ISPs from creating fast lanes for preferred services – a practice known as 'paid prioritization,'" according to The Guardian story. High-speed internet is now classified as a telecommunications service rather than an information one, allowing the FCC to oversee broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Four million citizens sent in comments about the proposal to the FCC, and President Obama also made a public comment that he was in favor of net neutrality. Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said he did not hear the public comments, only the president's words. “We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason alone: president Obama told us to do so,” he said. In a statement, the FCC said, “The order bars the kinds of tariffing, rate regulation, unbundling requirements and administrative burdens that are the hallmarks of traditional utility regulation. No broadband provider will need to get the FCC’s approval before offering any price, product or plan.”