CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — The Federal Communications Commission brought its Road Trip Program to Clarksburg Monday, discussing consumer issues with elected officials and business owners of Harrison County.
“Our chairman would like us to go out into parts of rural America to share information about consumer issues and other issues that are important to consumers, like broadband deployment,” said Lyle Ishida, chief of the FCC’s Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division.
Internet access is a challenge that those in rural America have faced for decades, and the FCC is still fighting to make it happen.
“The FCC recently awarded $1.5 billion in Connect America Fund “reverse auction,” Ishida said. “That’s the carriers serving rural America to help build broadband where there is no broadband now.”
But, Ishida said, that’s not the only problem that’s tackling rural America. Topics like spoofing, scam alerts, telehealth, slamming, cramming and other telephone bill related items, and television broadcast transition also arise on these Road Trip stops.
Robocalls, he said, were an issue that arose Monday in Clarksburg.
Often, robocalls can lead to fraud.
“Robocalls are the number one complaint that we get at the FCC,” Ishida said. “This being the holiday season, we’ve heard from senior centers that seniors are getting a lot more robocalls with fake charities, and we like to forewarn them about that.”
While those calls are increasing, they certainly aren’t anything new. This is something the FCC has been working hard to abolish.
“There is a two-track process that we’re trying to use. One is to forewarn and forearm consumers, so they’re to deal with robocalls as they come in in an informed basis,” Ishida said. “Separately on the regulatory side, our chairman has been aggressive in letting carriers know, on spoofed calls for instance, that he’d like a technical solution next year.”
The FCC, he said, has been aggressive in fining calls that are identified.
“And so robocalls have been on the receiving end of millions of dollars of fines,” Ishida said.
Next week, the FCC will hold its monthly meeting, which will include a number of consumer-facing topics.
“One of which is related to broadband deployment, in which the chairman and commissioners will vote on a proposal to provide additional federal support to carriers in rural areas who don’t have broadband now to allow them to build broadband to support consumers who live in those areas,” Ishida said.
The Road Trip Program will now take Ishida and his staff further through Appalachia through Kentucky and Tennessee. The tour will conclude Friday in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.