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I believe that the potted plants, as shown in the picture above, are not a substitute for the two FCC commissioners that are missing from this picture and should be helping to add balance to the lopsided reign of terror currently underway. While three FCC commissioners legally constitutes a quorum, I’d trust the votes of the potted plants, (Dieffenbachia, I believe) over this group.

There are supposed to be 5, I repeat, 5 commissioners at the FCC. There are now only 3, with only 1 person, Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, calling the shots. (More likely, there is undue influence from the Executive branch making decisions to remove basic privacy rights and coming up— to trash Net Neutrality.)

On April 20th, 2017 the FCC is going to have a meeting and it is going to be a consumer and competitor bloodbath. The FCC has already put forth their proposed rules in multiple areas, including the “IP Transition”, to the hotly contested “Broadband Data Services”. But, the overall plan is to remove all regulations and obligations on the incumbent phone utility companies: AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink. (You didn’t know that they are still ‘utilities’?)

In short, this is an all out assault on the public interest. And I’ll come back to what’s about to happen in a moment.

Just to recap, the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has taken control of the FCC with the help of his other Republican Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly. This has left a vacuum and a guarantee that there will be no serious discussion of any FCC decision because there is one Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, and she is not a lawyer. There was initially some lip service to have a former Dem Commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel return, but that would have created, well, a stalemate with 2 Dems and 2 Republicans.

Thus, we have the equivalent of executive orders being issued, with no serious debate.

Where are the Senators and Congressmen who should be screaming about this? Where is the list of the proposed new FCC Commissioners?

There Is a Declaration of War being Presented and Voted on April 20th, 2017

This meeting and the votes that are already preordained, should not be allowed until there is a balance to expose and shut down these really embarrassing proposed rulings. The documents and plans proposed show just how America is being abused through bad data, bad analysis and the fat fingers of the corporations to tilt the scales of Liberty in their favor.

Let me paraphrase and quote from two of the primary items that will be part of this meeting; the “IP Transition” and the second related to “Broadband Data Services”.

  • The FCC’s IP Transition and Broadband Plan

The FCC has put together a collection of garbage, which cover multiple topics including something called “The IP Transition’. Instead of a tech change, this is about removing any remaining obligations and rules left on the state utilities that control the wires currently in place – I.e., the plan is to shut off the copper, and remove any pesky rules on any other wires.

“The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Notice of Inquiry, and Request for Comment that would propose to remove regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment, suggest changes to speed the transition from copper networks and legacy services to next-generation networks and services dependent on fiber, and propose to reform Commission regulations that are raising costs and slowing, rather than facilitating, broadband deployment. (WC Docket No. 17-84)”

Doesn’t all this sound ‘important’? This is really just the same propaganda language that hides the intent and has been continually pushed by AT&T and Verizon over the last five+ years. The documents are in telecom wonk-speak, so I’ll just give you a few examples.

1) Paraphrase: The FCC wants federal laws and rules to pre-empt state laws. It would remove state laws pertaining to maintaining or the retirement of the copper state utility wires.

“We seek comment on whether there are state laws governing the maintenance or retirement of copper facilities that serve as a barrier to deploying next-generation technologies and services that the Commission might seek to preempt.”

2) Paraphrase: We don’t need to actually have the phone companies tell customers that the company is shutting off their services. (The largest incumbent “Local Exchange Companies” (LECs) are Verizon, AT&T and Centurylink.)

“If we modify Section 51.332, we also propose eliminating the requirement that incumbent LECs provide direct notice of planned copper retirements to retail customers, both residential and non-residential.”

3) Paraphrase: We don’t really need to have an adequate replacement if we shut off someone’s working wired service, do we?

“90. Elimination of “Adequate Replacement” Test. We seek comment on whether our proposed two-part test should replace the current three-part “adequate replacement” test adopted in the 2016 Technology Transitions Order. Carrier representatives have raised concerns regarding the burdens imposed by the 2016 rules, claiming they impede technology transitions by adding requirements.”

4) The FCC actually asks:

"Should we eliminate or modify the related affordability and customer education requirements?”

I.e.; Do we have to show that the replacement is affordable and do we have to even tell customers about how their working service will be ‘shut off’ – educate them and explain their alternatives (if any)?

Even a “Dumb Cane” (the common name of the Dieffenbachia plant) can see that this is just a put-on-job, written by AT&T and Verizon to help – AT&T and Verizon et al.

  • The “Broadband Data Services” (BDS) Debacle

The second disaster in the making is based on a hotly contested area over the last few years, known as “Broadband Data Services”. Basically, there is a class of service originally called “Special Access” services, renamed “BDS”. They are not special but are the regular phone wires used for data services, like ATM machines or by competitors offering service, or are the wires to the wireless hot spots or cell sites.

And these are the exact same wires that are part of the state utility that are used for other communications services, like phone service.

But, due to a manipulation of the accounting, this part of the wired business grew to a very, very profitable $45 billion dollar marketplace with the majority of the services still based on the existing copper wires. However, this entire line of business has been hidden from view, but it, too, is part of the state utility infrastructure.

The FCC was supposed to make a decision last year that would have taken care of a long time problem; BDS has obscene profits because the phone companies have been able to charge inflated rates and most importantly, the major expenses were paid by the state utility local phone customers.

In 2016, a deal was cut between Verizon and the competitor association, Incompas, to address some of this, but that fell through. It’s now target practice time on those who want to use the networks.

And while there are those screaming -- But everything is going wireless and the wires no longer matter. Not true. Almost all cell sites end up fixed to a wire. And the ‘densification’ of wireless, i.e., more antennas for higher speeds, is based on having a fiber optic wire. Period.

Note: Over the last two years we did a great deal of work on this topic. AT&T and Verizon were able to block my ability to see the data collected by the FCC, with the help of the previous FCC administration. (I have nothing nice to say about this mess.) But, under the current proposed plan, I think of how bad it could be, then just triple it.

Just for the Record and a Partial List of Omissions and Stupidities

These areas, the IP Transition, the copper retirement, and BDS services overlap because a) they are part of the state-based utility, b) they use the exact same wiring c) most of the wiring is still copper and was never properly replaced or maintained and d) the data about these networks have been severely manipulated.

But most important – these wires are all Title II, common carrier services, including the copper network as well as the fiber optic networks that are used for FIOS or for the wires to the cell sites. And because these other fiber networks use Title II as the investment, the capital expenditures came out of the state utility budgets and was charged to local phone customers, especially harming low income families and rural customers.

And the FCC has neglected to mention these facts in any of these or even previous proceedings.

Proof: Verizon’s FiOS Broadband Networks Are Title II

This excerpt is from the Verizon Massachusetts’ December 2016 filing with the City of Boston, MA for their supposed FiOS build out. Verizon states that the networks are Title II and part of the existing state utility. In fact, when the City of Boston asked Verizon for a map of the services, Verizon said it did not have to provide this because this build out is nothing more than an enhancement of the existing state-based utility.

And this excerpt is from a Verizon New York cable franchise, which details that Verizon petitioned and got NY State to declare that the existing network, including upgrades to fiber-to-the-home (FTTP), are Title II and part of the Verizon NY, PSTN, the state utility.

And this means that broadband has been a Title II service in the state laws since time and memorial, especially during the 1990’s when the fiber optic deployments were supposed to have started to replace the existing copper wires, and Title II is still in the state laws and agreements in 2017.

The FCC’s Omissions are Stunning in their Negligence.

Thus, in the current proposals:

  • The FCC has failed to acknowledge that the copper wires are part of a state utility like electricity or gas or even water.
  • The FCC never even mentioned the word “utility” when it comes to discussing the infrastructure it wants to shut off.
  • There is no mention of the term “PSTN”, Public Switched Telephone Networks, which are the state utilities’ infrastructure. These contain both “switched” and “non-switched” services, such as the wires used for Broadband Data Services.
  • The FCC supplies no accounting of the number of actual copper lines in service that are being ‘shut off’ or are in use for phone service or BDS services, even though they both use the same identical wire.
  • There is no mention that customers funded these wires over decades or that the copper wires were supposed to already have been upgraded to fiber optics over the last two decades.
  • In fact, the FCC has neglected to address why these wires were not properly upgraded or maintained for decades.

Finally, the IP Transition was a con to shut off the wires and force customers onto more expensive wireless, and it failed miserably in tests. AT&T’s two IP Transition ‘trials’ lost over 30% of its legacy customers and was down 15% of total customers. Yet, AT&T manipulated the accounting to supply a ‘happy’ face so that this FCC can quote stats that are meaningless.

And ironically, the Trump administration has touted states’ rights and less government, yet here is the FCC who wants to micro-manage a national process to ‘shut off the copper’ as a federal act, ignoring all state laws or even that these copper wires are part of a state-based utility.

Congress needs to step in and demand that the two potted plants be substituted with Commissioners. Moreover, it should demand there be investigations about the condition and maintenance of the wires and answer basic questions:

  • How many total copper wires are in use today? (all services)
  • How have Verizon et al. been able to cross-subsidize the other lines of business and charge low-income families for upgrades of the wireless networks instead of upgrading the cities with fiber?
  • Why are there still copper networks when the telcos made multiple commitments, state-by-state, to do upgrades – and charged local phone customers?
  • The FCC talks about helping rural areas. How does shutting off working services and replacing them with inferior, more expensive services help these areas?
  • How much of the capx of the utilities was diverted to fund other lines of business, like special access or FiOS or the cell sites?

This list will be continued in future articles.

And where are the Congressional hearings to confirm the missing FCC Commissioner slots?

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