The FCC Wants to Charge Americans $225 to Issue Complaints

Want to complain to the FCC about an ISP, cable company, or wireless provider?  Now, Americans have three options: cash, check, or credit.

After an embarrassingly inept ‘public commenting’ disaster, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has opted for a different method for listening to average Americans.  That is, charging them $225 to issue a ‘formal complaint,’ which itself seems mostly useless.

The proposal comes on the heels of a momentous shift away from net neutrality.  The FCC, lead by chairman Ajit Pai, moved to eliminate net neutrality protections nationwide, despite massive protests from states, legislators, and a majority of Americans.  But those protests were largely muddled on the FCC’s site, thanks to a system that was overwhelmed with fake comments, spam, and flat-out identity theft.

There were also a lot of real comments submitted during the review period.  But those were overwhelmed by thousands upon thousands of spammed comments.  Months later, the FCC has done nothing clean up the mess.  Just recently, we found a few planted comments from a ‘Barack Obama’ still online, for example.

Weeks after the failure, an FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, even admitted that Russian interference was a likely culprit.

Part of the ‘problem’ was John Oliver, who rallied watchers to flood the FCC site with comments to save net neutrality.  That may have prompted the spammy counterattack, the result of which was a giant online mess.  In the wake of the Oliver-led onslaught, the FCC blamed a nefarious denial-of-service attack, rather than admit getting embarrassed by a comedian.

+ The FCC Faked a Denial-of-Service Attack Rather Than Admit Getting Pwned by John Oliver

Sounds like a complicated problem.  But what if Americans simply had to pay to complain?

That appears to be the magic solution cooked up by the FCC, with a $225 fee proposed for ‘formal complaints’.  The process would work something like this:

  • Joe American has a complaint for the FCC.
  • The FCC tells Joe to go to the company he’s having a problem with.
  • If that doesn’t work, the FCC charges Joe American $225 to formally complain.
  • We’re done.

The payment ‘solution’ offers the perfect remedy for an inconvenienced FCC.  Instead of implementing better verification tools, filtering out spam comments, and actually reading complaints to adhere to its core mission, the $225 fee process effectively eliminates 99.9% of the problem.