Late last December, nearly 24 million comments poured into the FCC after the agency revealed its plans, spearheaded by its chairman Ajit Pai, to roll back net neutrality.
The FCC’s rules, as they stand, require all comments from the public to be forwarded to the commissioners, and for the commissioners to take these comments into consideration when casting a vote on a new measure.
Well, it seems like the current FCC doesn’t want to bother having to read through all your comments anymore. At least, not without getting paid for it.
Coming up on the FCC’s docket for a vote on Thursday is a proposed measure titled “Streamlining the Rules Governing Formal Complaint Proceedings.” What does this streamlining include? Forwarding your complaints directly to the telecom company for them to deal with rather than the FCC.
And what if you really want the FCC to get involved? They’ll charge you.
The Verge reports that two high-ranking Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Senator Mike Doyle and Senator Frank Pallone, have sent a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai voicing how they are “deeply concerned” about the proposed rule change.
Under current FCC rules, the commission reviews and acts on consumer complaints. Under the new rules, these type of free-to-file informal customer complaints would be forwarded to the telecommunication companies. If consumers are not satisfied with the outcome in dealing directly with the telecom company in question, the customer can come back to the FCC with a formal complaint, an existing commission legal process – one which the FCC will review – that costs $225 to file.
If the new FCC rules are passed, consumers are left with the option of letting the very service provider they’re complaining about decide the outcome of their complaint, or ponying up the cash to start the legal process with the FCC. And, as Senator Doyle and Senator Pallone said in their letter, this rule change would come “at a time when consumers are highly dissatisfied with their communications companies.”
The FCC has commented on the Democrats’ letter, disputing the details describing the rule changes in the measure. In an email to CNET, a FCC spokesman writes:
“The item would not change the Commission’s handling of informal complaints. The Democrats’ letter is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the draft order.”
As the Washington Post points out in talking with senior Democratic committee aides, while the $225 fee for the formal complaint process isn’t new, the updated wording of the FCC rules in this measure does free the FCC of its current informal complaint responsibilities.
Mashable has reached out to the FCC and will update when we receive a response.