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How Trump’s FCC Team Could Cut Consumer Protection Efforts

January 17, 2017, 3:48 PM UTC
Internet Providers Should Guarantee Equal Access to All Users, Obama Says
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) headquarters stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. President Barack Obama called for the "strongest possible rules" to protect the open Internet, advocating stricter controls than a regulator he appointed and causing shares of Comcast Corp. and other broadband providers to drop. Obama's comments tilt the White House against positions advocated by broadband providers and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Andrew Harrer —Bloomberg via Getty Images

While President-elect Donald Trump’s declarations about foreign policy and healthcare have been making headlines, the new administration also appears to be moving quickly to remake communications and media policy.

Transition team members for the Federal Communications Commission—which oversees the media, cable, and telecommunications industries—held a meeting last Friday with administration officials to discuss a plan to deeply streamline the agency. The FCC would lose its consumer protection and competition functions under the plan offered by a majority of transition team members—most of whom have close ties to the telecommunications industry, Multichannel News reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Those functions would be ceded to the Federal Trade Commission under the plan. The FCC’s enforcement bureau pursues consumer protection investigations of telecom fraud. Last month, the unit got a $4 million penalty and $2 million in consumer refunds in a settlement with Birch Communications over deceptive and abusive marketing practices. Various parts of the agency that oversee different communications markets offer proposals to stimulate competition and help evaluate mergers.

Once Trump officials take over, the agency is also expected to roll back initiatives, like net neutrality and Internet privacy rules, which were adopted under current chairman and Obama appointee Tom Wheeler. The plans are similar to recommendations from current Republican members of the FCC, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly.

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Republicans in Congress have long been hostile towards many of the agency’s regulatory priorities during the Obama administration. Trump has appointed four people to his transition team for the FCC, three of whom are on record opposing net neutrality.

Transition team members Jeff Eisenach, an economist who has been on Verizon’s (VZ) payroll, and Roslyn Layton, a telecom industry consultant and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, offered the proposal for a far more streamlined agency at the meeting, Multichannel News reported.

David Morken, co-founder of Republic Wireless and a late addition to the Trump FCC transition team, had a minority proposal to keep many of the Obama era rules, arguing they benefit upstart companies and enhanced completion, Multichannel News reported. Morken also pushed elevating the FCC to a cabinet level agency and increasing its funding.

Fortune reached out to Eisenach and Layton for comment, and will update this story if a response is received. A spokeswoman for Morken said he could not comment on the transition.