Trump’s FCC makeover proposal could inhibit consumer protections, impact rural areas, says Public Knowledge

FCC headquarters
Harold Feld, SVP of consumer advocacy for Public Knowledge, called Trump's FCC plan an "act of war" on the Communications Act.

President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to realign the FCC’s role in overseeing competition and consumer protection has come under fire from Public Knowledge as an attack on the Communications Act.

Harold Feld, senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Ars Technica in a report that the move was "a declaration of war on the most basic principles of universal service, consumer protection, competition and public safety that have been the bipartisan core of the Communications Act for the last 80+ years."

Feld added that Trump’s proposal, which was highlighted in a Multichannel News report that cited unnamed sources that were present at the meeting, will "poison the well for any serious effort to update the Communications Act." He was also concerned that revamping the FCC could impact rural areas where availability of wireline and wireless broadband services is limited.  

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The Trump camp has not issued any statements about its plans for the FCC.

Specifically, one of the proposals is aimed at restructuring the FCC by moving what it said are "duplicative” functions like competition and consumer protection, to other agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

However, Feld said that a proposal to hand over FCC competition and consumer protection authority to the FTC would mean that Congress would have to write complex legislation.

At this point, it’s unclear what exact direction the FCC will take. After current FCC Chairman leaves office following the presidential inauguration, the agency’s political structure will shift to a 3-2 Republican majority after a replacement for Wheeler and Jessica Rosenworcel are made. Rosenworcel’s term recently expired in December.  

Republican FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly have already been trumpeting promises to take a lighter regulatory touch that will be embraced by large telcos and cable operators like AT&T and Comcast.

It’s likely that the Republican-led FCC will work to revamp or seek to overturn key issues that current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler championed like net neutrality, business data services (BDS) and set-top box reforms.

President-elect Trump has not revealed specific details about his technology plans, but he has named a number of conservative members for its technology transition team.

Trump’s transition team named Carolyn Tatum Roddy, an Atlanta-based telecom attorney, as the latest member of President-elect Donald Trump’s FCC transition team. Roddy becomes the fifth member of Trump’s FCC transition team, which also includes David Morken, co-founder of Republic Wireless and Bandwidth, and American Enterprise Institute Fellows Jeffrey Eisenach, Mark Jamison and Roslyn Layton.

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