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The FCC's Consumer Empowerment Agenda

October 13th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

On the way in this morning, I got an email from a friend that rings familiar to way too many Americans.

My friend said that he incurred $2,000 in extra data charges while on a trip overseas, despite buying an “international plan.”  He added that this was “more than 15 times” what he had expected to pay.

He was a victim of what we at the FCC call “bill shock,” and, according to our research, there are 30 million Americans just like him.

Bill shock occurs when consumers see their bills jump unexpectedly by tens, hundreds, or thousands of dollars from one month to the next.  Common cases are when a subscriber is charged for unknowingly exceeding his or her allotments for voice, text or data, or gets hit with roaming charges that are unexpected.

A few hours ago, I delivered a speech highlighting what the FCC is doing to put an end to bill shock, as well as other fees and billing practices that are giving consumers headaches.

I’m proud that the FCC is pursuing an aggressive Consumer Empowerment Agenda.  In a nutshell, our strategy is to educate, empower, and enforce.

We are working to harness technology and promote transparency to empower consumers with the information they need to make smart decisions and to make the market work.  And when there is bad conduct in the market, the FCC has acted, and we will continue to act. Consumers must know that the FCC’s got their back. 

I hope that you will read the speech to learn the details of our Agenda.  I also invite you to check out FCC.gov/consumers, where you can access digital tools like our broadband speed test, and learn more about preventing bill shock.

There’s never been a more exciting – or complex – time to be a consumer of communications technologies.  Be assured that the FCC is working to make sure that you and all Americans have the tools to take advantage of new technologies, without having to worry that somebody is taking advantage of you.

4 Responses to “The FCC's Consumer Empowerment Agenda”

  1. Guest says:

    This is a great example of government doing it's job. Glad to hear this issue, which affects so many Americans unexpectedly, is getting the attention it deserves!

  2. Guest says:

    #FCC to need to stand up for NetNeutrality and CAP ACT. The ability to use are Free speech is being sacrificed over corporate profits. I'm in the front lines helping those with a voice in are community. Find the truthful facts. There harder to find. Thanks for your time, and letting me have a voice,
    Otto Boschet

  3. k.algino says:

    Empower consumers...not really. I have had Verizon for years and have been more than happy with the service, cost and ease in dealing with issues they provide. Now I am told that no matter that I am happy, AT&T is unable to run a competitive business and needs Verizon to give my service to them. Many people in MN feel that our right to choose has been removed..no freedom of choice...oh I feel so empowered now! If AT&T cannot compete it is because they don't offer what the public wants. They want to charge you , but you cannot get or hold a call, they don't care if you are having problems with service...just give it another month. I have had AT&T when I first moved here and now I have no choice but to be serviced by a company that I vowed I would never use again. Don't you listen to the public when they say AT&T is a joke for a provider.

    Please don't empower us anymore......empowerment is choice and you have taken that away.

  4. Guest says:

    I was looking for a link about television but could not find one, so I selected this one as it does envolve empowering the consumer.

    I read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal headlined "FCC Seeks Ways To Halt Blackouts In TV-Fee Fights" and I have some thoughts on the matter.
    First off I am interested in seeing the FCC regulations or US code that allows for networks/stations to charge a fee for retransmitting their signal.
    Since stations have been allowed to charge for retransmit, monthly cable bills have been rising out of control.
    As I understand the retransmit for fee regulation, it allows a network who transmits the primary broadcast to collect a fee from the cable provider when they retransmit the broadcast to their subscribers.
    The problem with this is, most cable channels never originate a primary broadcast to the community, national or local. The cable provider is actually originating the primary broadcast for these channels thereby making a retransmit fee not necessary.
    Local networks broadcasting to the community would certainly qualify to collect a retransmit fee from the cable provider, however I feel that this practice should stop.
    It is only a benefit to the local network to be included on the cable provider's channel lineup. Without this inclusion, the viewership for these local broadcasters would be diminished and ad rates would suffer.
    As the local stations benefit from inclusion, so do the cable channels. Without the cable provider broadcasting their signals, the cable channels have nothing, no audience, no ad revenue. Their channel would not exist if not for the cable provider.

    These retransmit fees should all be done away with, as the consumer is ultimately the one who pays and they have no say in the matter.

    If the retransmit fees can not be done away with, then, Alacarte Cable would eliminate the problems of networks fighting over fees with cable providers.
    Alacarte cable puts the consumer in control and makes the network have to ask the consumer to pay more for the channel in these fee fights. In fact, the channel is less likely to ask for an increase because it is much more transparent and they don't want to look bad in the eyes of their viewership.
    Alacarte cable would also likely have an effect of reducing or eliminating the retransmit fees, as channels drop/lower them to attract more viewers. If a channel doesn't drop or lower their fee, then the consumer can choose to pay it or drop the channel.
    Once the consumer can pick and choose which channels they want, the cable provider is just a utility, acting as a middle man for the networks. The consumer has the power and the channels have to compete.

    I hope you will respond to me your thoughts on my suggestions.

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