Utility Watchdog in San Diego

Communications

FCC Passes Beefed Up Net Neutrality Regulations

On February 26, 2015 the FCC took action on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to change how the FCC classifies and regulates the internet. The commission voted 3-2 to approve Title II-backed net neutrality regulations. This essentially changes how broadband internet service is classified from the FCC and changes a lot of regulatory definitions for providers of broadband internet. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s comments can be found here.

What did the FCC do?

First, the FCC reclassified broadband Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. However, this does not mean that the FCC classified the internet as a public utility.

This means that while the FCC has enhanced its regulatory authority over providers of internet services, the FCC will not engage in price regulation, rate setting, or a number of other regulations that public utilities (such as telephone services) are subject to.

What these regulations will do is prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from manipulating internet speeds by setting up “pay to play” internet fast lanes for businesses or commercial enterprises (such as streaming video or downloading music) or slowing down connection speeds for specific content or websites (corporations such as Google will not be able to pay money to increase the connection speed to their website or slow down connections to competitors).

Additionally, a separate FCC order on February 26 pre-empted state laws which prevent local governments from providing their own broadband internet services in their areas, citing concerns that it would prevent competition in some markets.

What does this mean for me?

Effectively your internet experience will probably not change very much in the short term. Internet “fast lanes” and similar programs which are affected by this order were not yet widely used, so their continued absence will probably not be noticeable.

The second order creates the potential for greater competition and consumer choice of ISPs, especially in rural or underserved areas. This ruling also protects the ability of local governments to invest in internet infrastructure to compete with private sector providers.

Moving forward, these regulations are expected to be challenged in court. The outcome of any legal challenges and how the FCC uses their new regulatory abilities is yet to be seen. UCAN will continue to monitor this story and keep our members up to date with any notable developments. For more information please become a member or sign up for our mailing list.

FCC Chairman to Propose Classifying the Internet as a Public Utility

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced through an op-ed in Wired Magazine that he will propose that the FCC utilize its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections. Among the effects that Wheeler claimed his regulations would also extend to mobile broadband providers. This means that the FCC would begin regulating the internet as a public utility, similar to telecom companies.

While the specific details of Wheeler’s plan have not yet been released, UCAN will continue to monitor and follow the progress of this proposal. Click here to read Mr. Wheeler’s article in Wired magazine.

UCAN Files Complaint Against TelePacific for Charging Customers Victimized by Toll Fraud

According to TelePacific’s estimates between 2010 and 2014 approximately 2,955 TelePacific customers have been victimized by Toll Fraud. Of those, 1076 have been billed for the expenses. If you or your company are TelePacific customers who have been victimized by Toll Fraud, UCAN would like to hear from you.

Below is a summary of the complaint that UCAN filed against TelePacific with the California Public Utilities Commission, for billing customers for toll fraud calls despite TelePacific’s claim that their customers receive 24 hour toll fraud protection.

Keep up to date with UCAN’s advocacy by liking us on Facebook and following us on twitter. You can also read UCAN’s complaint and keep up to date with this case (C 14-07-007) at the CPUC website.

SUMMARY OF THE COMPLAINT

UCAN’s complaint involves TelePacific, a regulated utility in California, which billed their customers for toll fraud calls even though TelePacific has represented that customers at TelePacific receive “24 hour toll fraud protection”. TelePacific has produced marketing materials for its customers that say: As always with TelePacific you get – “24 hour toll fraud protection”. Unfortunately, when customers were victimized by toll fraud, TelePacific billed their customers anyway.   TelePacific’s representations were false, misleading and deceptive and resulted in thousands of dollars in toll charges being billed to TelePacific customers. These charges were unauthorized and this conduct violates the law.

In addition, by billing their customers thousands of dollars for toll fraud calls that TelePacific has represented their customers were protected from, TelePacific has violated Public Utilities Code by imposing unjust and unreasonable charges.

UCAN’s complaint will cite customer specific facts where the customers were told by TelePacific that the toll fraud charges on their accounts were their responsibility to pay. TelePacific’s representatives have claimed that their represented “24 hour toll fraud protection” does not protect the customer from toll fraud charges if the customer’s equipment was hacked. TelePacific claims that a term and condition of their customer service contracts require customers to secure their own equipment. TelePacific has used this contract language to shift liability for the costs of toll fraud calls onto their customers.

TelePacific also failed to disclose to their customers that there were major exceptions to its advertized service provided to customers of “24 hour toll fraud protection.” TelePacific customers were unaware that this provided service contained major exceptions. Those exceptions include that TelePacific does not protect their customers against toll fraud if the customers’ phone equipment is hacked.   This failure to disclose what “24 hour toll fraud protection” meant violates the Public Utilities Code because TelePacific failed to provide their customers enough information to make informed choices.

TelePacific also held one specific customer responsible for toll fraud calls, citing specific contract terms even though the customer’s contract contained no such term. By holding a customer liable for charges under a contract term the customer never agreed to, TelePacific is violating another Public Utilities Code section. TelePacific also violated Public Utilities Code by telling the commission’s Consumers Affairs Branch (CAB) that they had reviewed the customers’ contract and concluded the customer was responsible, again citing a contract term the customer never agreed to.

TelePacific’s conduct and policies are harming customers and UCAN asks for an immediate Cease and Desist Order for charging any customer who is the victim of toll fraud, an accounting of all toll fraud incidents in which customers were billed, and restitution with interest to be made to those customers. UCAN also asks that the commission impose appropriate penalties and sanctions on TelePacific to discourage such future conduct.

Telecomm

UCAN continues to be actively engaged in protecting and advocating for telecommunications consumers’ rights with the California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC] and assisting consumers in bill disputes with telephone, cellular, internet, cable, and other service providers. Currently we are working on:

If you have questions about charges made to your telecommunications bill for services you ordered and never received or services never ordered but for which you were billed, we are here to help. Please give us a call at (619) 696-6966.

Anti-Telemarketing Script

STRIKE BACK!

If you are being contacted by a telemarketer and would like to stop the cycle, there is a list of questions attached to help assist you in getting them to stop calling. So, if all you want is fewer telemarketing calls, just say "Please put me on your do-not-call list" each time you receive one. Saying this one line produces a remarkable decrease in such calls. Just make sure you say the phrase "do-not-call list" when speaking. Telemarketers aren't legally obliged to honor requests without this phrase. They'll keep calling if you just say "Please don't call me anymore.".  If the calls persist, there are questions listed below to let the telemarketer know you are going to follow thru the The Federal law governing telemarketers is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) 47 USC Section 227.

Before you start answering questions from a telephone solicitor, you must "qualify" the company. If, during the introductory pitch, the telemarketer indicates that they are working for a non-profit firm, or a survey company, hang up immediately.

Use the  Anti-Telemarketing Script form to ask helpful questions.

WHO YOU CAN NOT SUE:

  • Non-Profit corporations
  • Companies calling you at a place of business  
  • Companies that are not doing business in your area
  • Companies that are conducting surveys.  Note: Some companies will disguise their sales pitch as a survey. In the event this happens you must elicit a frank admission that they are selling something. One way to do this is to get them to send you literature or an order form. Other companies will claim they are invulnerable because they are not "conducting business in your area." Obviously, if they call you at home, they are conducting business and are subject to the full force of the law.

Water

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Telecom

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