Since 1967, when the Freedom of Information Act was established, citizens have the right to ask for and access records from the federal government.  This is one way to stay in-the-know about what’s happening.  

In addition to requesting specific information, agencies like the FCC publish regular reports & research about their department and the industry they oversee to give you an in-depth look at what’s happening on both a national and global scale.

In this article, we will discuss the types of information you can find in three different FCC reports that are publicly available; the FCC Annual Report, the FCC Broadband Report, and the FCC Wireless competition report.  We will also look at FCC complaints and dive deep into how they are filed and what types of reports the organization gets regularly.

FCC Annual Report

The FCC creates dozens of reports on quarterly, semi-annually, and annual basis.  The Annual Report to Congress is the largest and most comprehensive and includes a summary of what’s happening in each of their focus areas.  Here, they give information on all the services the FCC regulates, including broadcasting, telephone, telegraph, land mobile, and common carrier.  

You can find a history of reports dating back to the inception of the FCC in 1934 through those archived in 1998 here, or you can access the more current data on the FCC Reports & Research website.

2018 FCC Broadband Report

Published in February 2018, the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report analyzes the capabilities of both fixed and mobile telecommunications services.  This report is completed annually in an effort to follow the provisions laid out in section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 whereby the FCC is required to ensure that “advanced capabilities are being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”  Based on the information in the report, the government is then able to take action if these needs are not met.

Congress considers advanced telecommunications capabilities those that allow end users to both send or receive high-quality voice, graphics, data, and video services.  In 2018, the report concluded that both fixed and mobile services meet these requirements, despite mobile services not being an equal substitute for fixed services.  

The FCC bases their findings on the existing benchmark of 25 Mbps download, and 3 Mbps upload speeds for fixed services.  Mobile services need to have a minimum advertised speed of 5 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload.

The report had a number of interesting findings and concluded that the deployment of broadband services was directly impacted by the Title II Order in 2015.  The Commission saw a slowing following the order and since has taken several actions to accelerate deployment.  

Among them are removing barriers that hinder investment into infrastructure and promoting competition amongst providers in the telecommunications market.  They have also restored the light-touch regulatory framework that impacts broadband Internet access and services.  

Thanks to these efforts and others, the annual report surmises that broadband services are receiving broadband services on a timely and reasonable basis.

In the future, the Commission peas to continue to close the digital divide and keep that objective as a top priority.  The report also concludes that there is additional work that still needs to be done to ensure that as many Americans as possible have access to advanced telecommunications capabilities.

You can access a summary of the report findings, and a link to the full report here.

20th FCC Wireless Competition Report

A second interesting report that’s published annually is the FCC Wireless Competition Report.  Originating in 1993 when Congress created a statutory classification of Commercial Mobile Services to help promote consistent regulation of mobile radio service providers, today the report measures progress towards that goal.

The initial thirteen years of reports were titled the “Annual CMRS Competition Reports,” but beginning with the fourteenth report, they modified the name to the “Mobile Wireless Competition Reports” to more accurately reflect the current day technology and the shift in the marketplace.

The most recent reports compile a thorough analysis of all types of CMRS including voice, messaging, and broadband.  They most notably gather and categorize facts and characteristics that determine if we have a growing and competitive mobile wireless marketplace.  These figures include data points like:

  • The number of subscribers served, and connections made
  • Usage levels of consumers
  • Pricing trends
  • Market share
  • Spectrum holdings
  • Investments
  • Network coverage
  • Service Quality

The report further concluded that we live in a competitive wireless marketplace with room for growth and acquisition in years to come.

For access to the full report and links to a quick facts sheet with highlights from important points and charts, visit the FCC website here.

FCC Complaints

One of the seven bureaus of the FCC, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau is responsible for handling all formal and informal complaints.  They also provide quarterly inquiries and complaints reports to the commission and to Congress as requested.  

Included are any inquiries, or correspondence that the FCC revived from people looking for information about subjects that fall under their jurisdiction, and complaints.  There are two types of complaints: informal and formal.

Informal complaints occur when one of the consumer centers receive communication from a customer via the mail, email, fax, or a telephone call that identifies an entity that falls under the jurisdiction of the FCC alleges harm or injury and seeks relief for this occurrence.

The FCC receives thousands of informal complains annually.

How is an Informal Complaint Filed?

There are several different ways to file an informal complaint with the FCC.  The easiest is to access the Consumer Complaint Center home page through their website.

There, individuals can choose the category that best describes the area where they are experiencing an issue.  Options that the FCC oversees are:

  • Phone
  • TV
  • Internet
  • Radio
  • Emergency Communications
  • Access for individuals with disabilities

Next, the website will guide you through a series of questions to obtain information about the nature of your complaint or concern.  You’ll need to fill in all of the required information and give a detailed description of your issue as well as your contact information.

Finally, you’ll hit the “submit” button to file your complaint with the bureau.  You will get an email acknowledging receipt of your submission.

What the FCC Does with Informal Complaints

After you submit a complaint to the FCC, they categorize it to determine who is the best person to handle it.  If your issue has to do with availability, privacy, service, or billing, it will be processed by the Consumer Inquiries and Complaints division.  You’ll receive a tracking number and emails with periodic updates about the status of your issue.

It’s possible an FCC consumer representative will contact you for additional information so that they may better understand and resolve the matter at hand.  Once all the required information is gathered, the FCC will respond in one of two ways.  They will either send you relevant educational materials regarding your issue, or they will forward your complaint directly to the service provider.

If the service provider is at fault, they are then required to respond in writing within 30 days.  You will receive a copy of that response, and it’s likely that the provider will contact you directly to resolve the issue.

If your complaint falls into a different category, such as ones about the Do Not Call List, unwanted telephone calls, loud commercials, robocalls, or other issues covered by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, they will not be served.  However, they will be shared among the offices and bureaus of the FCC.  

You will not get individual resolution on these types of issues, nor will you get any follow-up email communication.  However, it’s still important to report when these issues occur as they allow the department to collect data that may lead to investigations and additional regulatory requirements in the future.

FCC Complaints Reports & Research

The FCC keeps a detailed list of all formal and informal complaints filed by the public.  You can log onto their website to view reports & research on what areas consumers most frequently reported.

For example, you can view the category of consumer complaints about a period.  In the 2017 calendar year, for example, this was the breakdown of issues the FCC addressed.

  • 241,000 inquiries or complaints about phone related issues (73%)
  • 43,700 instances of television-related issues (13%)
  • 39,800 occurrences of internet-related issues (12%)
  • 654 complaints about accessibility (2%)

You can also access reports that further break down each category.  For example, if you’re curious about what issues the public was most vocal about related to television in 2017, you can filter that information into a helpful chart.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • 39% of inquiries regarded billing issues
  • 25% of complaints were due to indecency
  • 15% of consumers reported problems with availability
  • 7% of the communication regarded loud commercials
  • An additional 7% reported equipment problems
  • 3% had a complaint about interference
  • 1% had privacy concerns
  • 1% voiced issues with net neutrality

Where to Find Additional Reports & Research

The FCC believes in transparency and has a well-established history of publishing relevant data for review by the public.  You can see reports & research on their website that give information about the accessibility and quality of the telecommunications industry dating as far back as the inception of the organization in 1934.

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