By Karl Bode
A few weeks back, the Trump FCC put on a big show about a new "Keep America Connected Pledge." In it, the FCC proudly proclaimed that it had gotten hundreds of ISPs to agree to not disconnect users who couldn't pay for essential broadband service during a pandemic. The problem: the 60 day pledge was entirely voluntary, temporary, and because the FCC just got done obliterating its authority over ISPs at lobbyist behest (as part of its net neutrality repeal), it's largely impossible to actually enforce.
Shockingly, numerous ISPs immediately proceeded to ignore that promise, and began kicking customers offline. Several ISPs even kicked disabled folks offline, despite repeatedly promising not to. And despite making a big stink about the pledge, the Ajit Pai FCC's response to this was to do nothing. Not only has the FCC done nothing, it has tried to claim that the reason we're seeing a surge in these complaints is somehow thanks to the FCC's half-assed efforts on this front:
"Although we have received some disconnection complaints recently, we think it may reflect increased attention on the FCC's work to keep people connected," the spokesman said."
That's of course nonsense. ISPs were never going to adhere to a voluntary promise pushed by a feckless, captured FCC with no authority to punish them. A powerless FCC was their reward of the recent, scandal-plagued net neutrality repeal. It's also worth noting that the FCC doesn't track disconnection complaints, because, well, America.
Enter a new bill sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, and Jeff Merkley that would make it illegal to terminate the connections of broadband subscribers during the pandemic (barring instances of network abuse).