Thursday, September 9, 2010

FCC Chairman Sets "Consumer Empowerment Agenda"

In a speech to the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said focusing on the needs and concerns of consumers has been a top priority of his agenda, along with unleashing spectrum, and driving broadband deployment and adoption, and a thriving broadband ecosystem.

Focusing on consumers is critical because it is one of the FCC's core responsibilities and, he argued, because pro-consumer policies are pro-competition and pro-innovation.

So what is the Consumer Empowerment Agenda? Technology-driven transparency is at the core. This includes:

1. Broadband service transparency -- enabling consumers to know what broadband speeds are promised and actually delivered.

2. Fees and billing transparency -- dealing with "mystery fees" for unauthorized or undesired services on monthly billing statements. Examples include unauthorized data fees for mobile customers who do not have a data plan.

3. Bill Shock -- preventing bills from jumping 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.

The FCC estimates that 30 million Americans have experienced bill shock in one form or another -- that's 1 in 6 mobile subscribers.

4. Early termination fees -- the FCC acknowledges that these can be legitimate but said that too often people are confused and don't have clear information about their choices -- such as whether or not they can buy phones without an ETF.

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