During the three years that the Obama-era set of net neutrality regulations were still the law of the land, the Federal Communications Commission encouraged customers of online service providers to report when the big telecom firms broke the rules. During those three years, though the FCC received thousands of “informal” complaints, only one customer took the time and paid the $225 fee to make a “formal” complaint, according to Ars Technica.
That one person, a customer named Alex Nguyen, not only filled out the required, tedious paperwork and paid the fee, he compiled a 112-page brief in which he documented dozens of net neutrality violations, all by one company. Verizon. That’s the same Verizon where current Donald Trump-appointed FCC Chair Ajit Pai was once employed as an in-house lawyer.
In 2017, a year after the FCC had received Nguyen’s complaint without acting on it, Pai announced his intention to repeal the net neutrality regulations. In that announcement, he apparently forgot that Nguyen’s complaint existed, declaring that in three years not a single formal complaint had been filed, as TechDirt reported. Pai later revised his statement to acknowledge the existence of the sole complaint.
In his complaint, Nguyen documented dozens of examples of how Verizon blocked competitor’s services from its own network, including blocking users of the Verizon network from using tablet computers not made by Verizon, blocking other online payment systems—such as Google Pay—in favor of its own, and even disabling the “tethering” functions of competitors’ phones, then charging a fee to re-enable them.
And yet, somehow, when the FCC finally, three years after it was filed, got around to holding a hearing on Nguyen’s extensive complaint against Verizon, the Republican-controlled board simply threw it out, citing the complaint’s alleged “failure to satisfy its burden of proving by competent evidence that Verizon violated the Act or the Commission’s rules or orders.”
Nguyen told Ars Technica that he was “not surprised” by the FCC ruling, but disputed the FCC’s claim that he didn’t have the evidence to back up his charges.
“Among other things, (the FCC) falsely claims I didn’t provide firsthand knowledge, even though I clearly did in my filings, exhibits, and replies to interrogatories,” adding that the evidence—which the FCC incorrectly dismissed as coming from “blog posts”—often came from his personal Verizon bills.
“Apparently, the current Enforcement Bureau chief doesn’t consider my bills from Verizon verified, reliable, or first-hand evidence,” Nguyen said.
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