The FCC’s Assault On Low-Income Americans

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It seems that President Obama cannot even go a week without using his “executive authority” to circumvent the laws of the United States. It has become almost routine for the executive branch to use its power to target and harass any business that does not align with the president’s extreme leftist ideology. Through the use of programs like Operation Choke-Point, Obama has found ways to bypass and dilute the Second Amendment by executive fiat. Today, the administration is now moving on to exploiting the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to shut down businesses that specifically serve immigrants and low-income Americans.

Operation Choke-Point unfairly targeted legitimate businesses. Critics of the operation have asserted that the federal banking regulators abused their authority under the program. Banks were pressured to close the accounts of entire industries including firearms and ammunition sellers, pawn shops, tobacco distributors, dating services, and payday lenders. They were closed solely because the Obama administration didn’t like them.

Under the direction of Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau at the FCC and Obama appointee, small phone service providers have become targets of an FCC investigation and have had almost $30 million in fines levied against them. However, this case isn’t a matter of ideology, or even that Obama doesn’t like them. Instead, LeBlanc has learned to bend the system to his needs while under the employ of both President Obama while working as an attorney for the Department of Justice and as Senior Advisor to California Democratic Senate Candidate and current Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris.

This investigation is all about Travis LeBlanc’s political aspirations. He has aggressively pursued cases against phone service companies that provide affordable long distance calling to low-income people in underserved communities. The same people he has been charged to protect.

The FCC was created in 1934 with a mission to regulate “interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the Commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications laws, regulation, and technological innovation.”

The purpose of the regulations is intended to support the “the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution.”  It was not intended that the FCC would take actions that limit diversity, pass regulations that favor large phone carriers and ultimately deny affordable phone services to low-income Americans.

LeBlanc and the enforcement division has targeted discount long distance phone service companies that provide affordable rates to people that need to call family and friends in foreign countries. This division has wrongly used their enforcement authority and issued regulatory “Notices of Apparent Liability” (NALs). By issuing theses arbitrary NALs, legitimate businesses have been denied their rights to due process.

Phone service providers OneLink Communications, TeleUno, Cytel, and TeleDias, have been charged with a practice called “slamming and cramming”. These companies have expressed their anger at the aggressive tactics the FCC has used against them. They believe they have denied the companies their due process rights under the guise of consumer protection. The companies are emphatic that the allegations and assertions that are laid out in the NALs are founded on baseless claims, misrepresented factual circumstances and trumped-up fines.

The phone companies claim the evidence they presented to the FCC to support their case has been ignored. They also believe the FCC’s strong-arm tactics and heavily levied fines are politically motivated. The excessive fines put the phone companies at risk of shutting down and laying off all their employees. And the low-income consumers they provide service to will have even fewer options. As the competition is eliminated large companies like AT&T and Verizon will quickly fill the void, but at a much higher cost to the consumer.

Travis LeBlanc has made no secret of his political ambitions; he wants to follow in the footsteps of his former boss, Kamala Harris, and become the Attorney General of California. LeBlanc has taken advantage of his position as chief enforcer to elevate his reputation as a tough guy. His overzealous actions against small business have proven to be all about the flash and nothing about the substance. Politico reported late last year that “the FCC has announced a series of eye-popping fines against companies over the past two years: Roughly $100 million against nearly a dozen firms for defrauding a phone subsidy program, and $35 million against a Chinese company for selling illegal wireless jamming equipment. But how much of that money has the commission actually collected? $0.”

In his efforts to use the FCC for his own self-promotion, LeBlanc has apparently not bothered to do his job. His job is to protect consumers and engage in good-faith regulations of the various industries overseen by the FCC. Of course, in the meantime, his actions have forced small businesses to close down, people have lost their jobs, and the low-income consumers he promised to protect have been robbed of their affordable long distance calling options.

Drew Armstrong is a 2015 graduate of California State University in Fullerton and a contributor at Red Alert Politics. He currently resides in Orange County, California.