Federal Communications Commission Votes Pushes Monopolist Agenda

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  • David Vance

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to entrench monopoly in broadcasting and business broadband. The FCC majority eliminated price restraints on Business Data Services (BDS), allowing incumbent carriers to charge exorbitant rates on small businesses across the country. In a separate proceeding, the same majority voted to reinstate a legal loophole that broadcasters exploit to monopolize ever more of the airwaves.

“This is the price we pay for the outrageous influence of money in politics,” said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps. “The public interest suffers, and we are poorer – economically and civically – for it.”

Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly concluded sufficient competition existed in the BDS market to justify its deregulation though the FCC itself found that in most areas only a single provider of BDS services exists. As a result, small businesses and community banks will pay more to process credit card and ATM transactions. BDS already costs small businesses billions – a price consumers end up paying.

Meanwhile, by reinstating the so-called “UHF Discount” the FCC gave a huge handout to Big Broadcasting. The UHF Discount is an antiquated regulation, that is no longer technically necessary, that the FCC previously eliminated during the Obama administration. Re-regulating the broadcasting market clears the way for unprecedented levels of consolidation, which has historically led to newsroom redundancy and layoffs and a diminution of localism and diversity. The move also increases leverage for broadcasters enabling them to charge cable companies higher fees to carry their signals, a price ultimately borne by higher cable rates for consumers nationwide.

“I salute Commissioner Clyburn for hearing from the people and resolutely standing up to Big Telecom and Big Broadcast. Her dissents today showed us that the public interest still has one herald at the Commission.” Copps added.