In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has tightened its grip on ISPs to keep them accountable for the Internet services they provide to American citizens. One of the plans the agency strictly follows is to ensure ISPs offer broadband services to customers, regardless of their “income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion or national origin.”
The notion of “digital discrimination” started two years ago after adopting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The bill, dubbed Internet for All, has a $45 billion budget and aims to provide high-speed broadband internet access to every US citizen by 2030. As a part of the legislation, the FCC is now investigating the provisions of digital discrimination to penalize errant ISPs.
The FCC is checking ISPs over discriminating against poor areas
The agency looks into different factors, including pricing, network upgrades, and maintenance procedures. Then, it decides whether an ISP prioritizes more affluent areas and discriminates against poor neighborhoods. While ISPs and carriers always denied the allegation of discrimination, the Associated Press reported that some low-income regions of the US receive lower Internet speed despite paying the same price as richer areas.
The FCC might even check companies like AT&T and Comcast if their actions “differentially impact consumers’ access to broadband.” Meanwhile, the agency also considers technical and economic challenges that might prevent a particular company from providing its customers equal access to high-speed broadband Internet.
While FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the agency would “accept genuine reasons of technical and economic feasibility as valid reasons,” critics argue that the new rules might penalize companies for unintentional discrimination and affect investments. The FCC already adopted the new rules in a 3-2 vote.
The agency also updated its procedures for SIM swapping and port-out scams. As per the new rules, wireless providers must immediately notify customers of any SIM change or a port-out for their account and phone number. This could help users protect their accounts against bad actors.
Additionally, the FCC voted to investigate how AI could impact robocalls. While AI could be used against robocalls, the scammers might turn it into a tool to defraud people more easily. Finally, the agency obligates mobile providers to split phone lines from family plans for victims of domestic violence if the abuser owns the account. Moreover, service providers should remove the calls and text records to domestic violence hotlines from subscribers’ logs.
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