FCC may hang up on phone service info

Marketplace Staff Sep 4, 2008
HTML EMBED:
COPY

FCC may hang up on phone service info

Marketplace Staff Sep 4, 2008
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: If you’ve got complaints about your telephone service and you’re looking for somebody to complain to, I’m afraid that’s just too bad. The Federal Communications Commission is set to cut way back on how much information it collects from the country’s biggest telecommunications providers, specifically, information about service problems.

From Washington, Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports.


STEVE HENN: For years, the FCC has required phone companies to file reports on consumer satisfaction — network outages and other problems. Tomorrow that could all change.

CHRIS MURRAY: The FCC is considering eliminating data reporting requirements for the biggest phone companies simply because the biggest phone companies asked them to.

Chris Murray is at Consumers Union.

MURRAY: These accounts are how we keep track of how they are doing, and that information is simply going to be lost.

Right now all this information is available online. And it’s chock full of embarrassing tidbits about phone service.

Wanna know what company’s customers have to wait the longest to get a residential phone line? It’s in there.

And God help you if your phone goes out in Arizona — fully one quarter of service reps in that state fail to fix the problem on their first trip out.

Murray says this data helped regulators blow the whistle when networks were falling apart.

MURRAY: But at this point it appears that the lion’s share of the data are no longer going to be available to either regulators or consumers.

Some smaller phone companies are already exempt from filing reports. Their big rivals like AT&T, Verizon and Qwest say that makes the current system unfair. And they say all this information on quality is collected in other ways.

But consumer advocates and many state regulators disagree. And they worry that if the FCC stops collecting this data, it will become a watchdog without a clue.

In Washington I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.