More people than ever are filing complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and Chairman Ajit Pai is not okay with that sort of thing. This week, the FCC will vote on changes to the informal complaint system used by most consumers that could make it harder (and more costly) to get your voice heard by the FCC. What used to be free could cost you $225.
Currently, you can file an informal complaint with the FCC if you feel you’ve been wronged by a telecommunications firm under FCC purview. The agency will (eventually) evaluate your claim, contact the company, and require a written reply. It is also required to take these complaints into consideration when making rules. There is also a formal complaint process in the event you’re not happy with the outcome of the informal one. It costs $225 and requires the parties to appear before the FCC and file documents to address legal issues pertaining to the complaint.
As early as this week, the FCC could neuter the informal complaint process. Under the proposed rules, the FCC would no longer evaluate informal complaints at all. Instead, it would forward them along to the company without comment and would pursue it no further. You don’t need the FCC to do that — you could just as easily send a toothless complaint to the company on your own.
If you want the FCC to actually see your complaint and address it, the FCC thinks you should have to go through the formal complaint process and pay the $225 fee. Obviously, most consumers won’t spend the money to do that, and they’re not prepared for the rigorousness of the process. If your ISP does something that costs you less than the filing fee, you might not bother complaining to the FCC at all. And look at that! Complaints against telecom companies are at an all-time low. The net neutrality repeal has fixed the internet!
US House Democrats have sent a letter to the FCC seeking an explanation for the proposed rule change. The FCC has claimed that it’s not changing anything about the informal complaint process, but that seems inaccurate. Let’s not forget the current FCC claimed the net neutrality repeal fixed the internet even before it had gone into effect. Ajit Pai has a way of massaging the truth that should make consumers nervous.
The FCC will vote on the complaint “streamlining” proposal on Thursday, July 12. The Commission’s three Republican members usually vote together to advance Pai’s agenda.