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Paul Merrell

Comcast hit with FCC's biggest cable fine ever - Oct. 11, 2016 - 0 views

  • Comcast is being forced to pay the largest fine the FCC has ever levied against a cable operator. Its offense: Charging customers for services and equipment they didn't ask for. The company agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty and to submit to a "compliance plan," in which regulators will monitor Comcast for the next five years to ensure it cleans up its act.
  • The FCC said it received over 1,000 complaints from customers, who said Comcast charged them for premium channels, cable boxes, DVRs or other products that they never ordered. In many cases, the FCC said, customers expressly told Comcast that they didn't want the add-on options, but they were charged anyway. Complaints also describe how customers spent "significant time and energy to attempt to remove the unauthorized charges" and get refunds, the commission said. The complaints spurred the FCC to launch an investigation nearly two years ago. Today's settlement marks the conclusion of the probe. Under the five-year compliance plan, Comcast must begin sending customers special notifications every time a new charge or service is added to their bill. The company also has to add a way for customers to easily "block the addition of new services or equipment to their accounts," according to an FCC press release.
  • Comcast (CMCSA) will also be required to compensate or address complaints from customers who have disputed charges, and it will be barred from referring an account to collections or suspending an account that has a disputed charge. Comcast agreed to the fine without admitting any guilt.
Paul Merrell

FCC 'very much' eyeing Web rules shakeup | TheHill - 0 views

  • The head of the Federal Communications Commission was quick to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday that his agency is seriously considering using the authority it has to regulate phone lines on Internet service providers.“Title II is very much on the table,” Chairman Tom Wheeler said during a House Small Business Committee hearing on Wednesday, referring to the section of the Communications Act that some have urged the agency to turn to for stronger rules.“I will assure you that Title II is very much a topic of conversation and on the table and something that’s we’ve specially asked for comment on,” he added.In its controversial proposal on net neutrality — the notion that Internet service companies like Comcast or Cox should be banned from slowing or block access to some websites — the agency specifically asked whether it should reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” and open them up to Title II rules, instead of an “information service.”
  • The plan Wheeler proposed earlier this year would not rely on that authority, but would instead allow for companies to make “commercially reasonable” deals to speed up users’ service on a particular website. Critics have said that would lead to “fast lanes” on the Internet, with quicker speeds for wealthy companies and slower service everywhere else.Supporters of strong rules have told the FCC that the stronger legal backing is the best way to prevent companies from slowing users’ service or blocking their access to particular websites.Critics, however, have said that the rules were designed for telephone monopolies and would lead to utility-style regulation on the Internet. In their comments to the FCC, cable companies have said that reclassifying broadband service to use the tough rules would likely be a violation of the law, which could tie the new rules up in court for years to come.
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    Of course Comcast, et ilk don't want Title II regulation. "Hey, just because we've divvied up the turf so that we've got geographical monopolies doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to leverage our monopolies into new monopolies." But the big cable companies got where they are by buying up community-granted and regulated monopoly utility companies. As part of consolidating those markets, the soon-to-be-gnormous cable companies, lobbied to get community regulation weakened and here we are with the FCC, with the cable companies now acting as ISPs too, which is straightforward telecommunications provider service, and these guys want to be able to charge a premium to the big internet content companies for fast-service after their ISP customers have already paid for fast service? So they can slow down the competition for their own content services.  Heck, yes, FCC. No one forced Comcast and crew to become telecommunications providers. Make 'em live with telecommunications regulation like all the other telcos. They are government-created monopolies and they should be regulated as such.   
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